Pressure is mounting on the Netherlands to keep its troops in Afghanistan past next year’s deadline following US president Barak Obama’s decision to send an extra 30,000 soldiers to the country.
The Telegraaf reports that US secretary of state Hillary Clinton phoned Dutch foreign minister Maxime Verhagen last week urging him to keep Dutch soldiers in the region.
Sources close to the cabinet told the paper Clinton found it ironic that the Dutch are on the point of withdrawal at the same time as the US is poised to adopt the Dutch approach. The Dutch policy in Afghanistan, which focuses on building bridges with the local community, has been widely praised.
Verhagen, who is in Athens, declined to give any details of the conversation, the paper said.
The Netherlands is set to withdraw its 2,000 soldiers and support staff from the southern region of Uruzgan from next August and a majority of MPs is opposed to any further delay.
NOS tv reports that Dutch defense minister Eimert van Middelkoop has also been in conversation with US under secretary for defence Michèle Flournoy while Peter van Uhm, the Netherlands’s head of the armed forces, has been phoned by Michael Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
The broadcaster says both Verhagen and Middelkoop are looking at the options for extending the Dutch role in the region.
In October, a motion opposing an extension by the Labour and ChristenUnie parties – both of which are part of the current cabinet – won majority support in parliament. Ministers have yet to comment on the vote, the Nos points out.
Britain and Italy have already said they will send more troops to Afghanistan and Germany will decide after a conference in London at the end of January, the BBC reports.
Labour MP Martijn van Dam said on Wednesday his party was still opposed to any extension. ‘We think it is other people’s turn,’ he told Radio 1.
The former chief of the Dutch armed forces Dick Berlijn told the Volkskrant he would be ‘very, very, very unhappy’ if the Netherlands pulled out. ‘It woud be a very bad signal if the Netherlands is the only country to say ‘we know what has to happen but we are not joining in,’ the paper quoted him as saying.
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