Afghan mission may be extended

Defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop is no longer opposed to the Netherlands maintaining a slimmed-down presence in Afghanistan, once its military mission ends next August, sources in the Hague have told the Volkskrant.

Earlier this week, foreign affairs minister Maxime Verhagen also hinted an extension of Dutch efforts in the region may be possible.
But Labour ministers are still opposed, meaning there is no majority support in the government for the move, the paper says. Verhagen is a member of the Christian Democrats and Van Middelkoop is from the minor coalition party ChristenUnie.
The Netherlands currently has some 2,000 soldiers and support staff in the southern region of Uruzgan, the paper says. But army chiefs and diplomats expect between 400 and 500 will remain in the area once the Netherlands hands over its role.
The Netherlands has been active in Afghanistan since 2006. In total 21 soldiers have been killed.
MPs are due to debate the issue within the next two weeks. Labour, Liberal VVD and Socialist MPs all want the Netherlands to pull out as agreed next year.

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