Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen and deputy prime minister Wouter Bos appear to be heading for a showdown over Nato’s call for the Netherlands to stay longer in Afghanistan.
Bos, who is leader of the Labour party, and the Christian Democrat Verhagen both outlined their position on different tv talk shows on Thursday night.
Bos has always been against any delay in the Dutch withdrawal. He told the Pauw & Witteman show the rest of the cabinet had been told last Thursday they could not count on Labour support for an extension to the Dutch mission.
That same evening, Nato made a written plea for the Netherlands to stay on in Afghanistan and train local troops. According to news agency ANP, Verhagen had asked Nato to send a formal request.
But Verhagen told tv show Den Haag Vandaag that all his contacts with Nato had been agreed with the involved ministers, including Bos. ‘[Dealing with] something like Afghanistan is not a one man show,’ he said. ‘You reach agreement and you talk things through in advance.’
‘It was not done in my name,’ Bos said.
Bos told reporters later the issue was based on a misunderstanding and he would discuss matters with Verhagen in Friday’s cabinet meeting.
In his letter, Nato secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen asks the Netherlands to stay in Afghanistan for another year to help train local forces. He also wants the Netherlands’ F-16 fighter jets to remain on active duty in Uruzgan.
The Netherlands currently has some 1,800 soldiers and support staff in the region and has also come under increasing pressure from the US to stay in Afghanistan beyond August.
Last week it appeared that both parties would support giving the Netherlands a greater role in training Afghan soldiers and police officers as a potential compromise.
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