Visit the troops, MPs tell defence minister

MPs are demanding that defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop or his junior minister Jack de Vries goes to Uruzgan to explain the result of an investigation into the ‘friendly fire’ incident last month to Dutch soldiers on the ground.

Two Dutch and two Afghan soldiers were killed in what eyewitnesses described as a chaotic situation – the most serious incident Dutch soldiers have been involved in since joining the Nato mission.
Military trade union Acom has called for the visit because the report says procedural mistakes were made. This criticism has hit ground forces hard, reports ANP news service.
The ministry of defence is not bringing any charges against soldiers involved in the incident. ‘There is only one soldier to be held accountable and that is me,’ army chief Dick Berlijn said in a column on the ministry’s intranet system, ANP reported.
Meanwhile, former finance minister Gerrit Zalm has been appointed chairman of the committee which will oversee the government’s review of the defence budget, sources in The Hague confirmed to the Telegraaf on Tuesday.
The committee has been set up following the failure to agree a structural solution to defence ministry spending shortfalls. Last year Van Middelkoop had to scrap equipment in order to draw up his 2008 budget. Zalm’s committee will act as a sounding-board for the review which is set to begin in March.

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