A narrow majority of MPs have voted in favour of the government’s plans to send a police training mission to Afghanistan, after ministers made a number of concessions.
The vote, late on Thursday night, took place after two days of debate during which the government emphasised the civilian nature of the mission.
Jolande Sap, leader of the left-wing green party GroenLinks, eventually agreed to back the project, turning the tide in the government’s favour.
‘It is not an easy yes, which is why I have asked for guarantees. If they are not met, measures will be taken… if it goes wrong, we will be out,’ Sap is quoted as saying in the Volkskrant. One GroenLinks MP defied the party leader and voted against.
Ministers have now pledged to get guarantees from the Afghan authorities that Dutch police trainers will not have any military role. They have also agreed that the Netherlands, not the US, will decide if four Dutch fighter jets which will accompany the mission should be called into action or not.
Ministers have also agreed to extend the training period from six to 18 weeks, to make sure trainers have safe bunkers to sleep in and to focus on civilian matters. Efforts will also be made to weed out corruption.
Labour, the Socialist Party, anti-Islam PVV and animal rights party voted against. Labour leader Job Cohen in particular came under fire from ministers, who criticised the speed with which he took the decision to vote no.
Prime minister Mark Rutte said during the debate that he would personally guarantee that all the government’s preconditions would be met. And he said he would make sure that communication about the mission is open, even when things don’t go well.
Meanwhile, a new opinion poll shows two-thirds of the population oppose the mission. Pundits expect this to have an effect on the results of the March provincial elections.
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