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Netherlands to send more troops to Afghanistan

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February 5, 2006

Netherlands to send more troops to Afghanistan

by Salvatore Ciolfi

The Dutch parliament voted in favor of sending more troops to Afghanistan on with the hope of raising its current number of 600 soldiers to roughly 1400 by the end of February. This marks the most significant Dutch military mission since the failure of its peacekeepers to prevent the Serbian massacre of Muslims in Srebrenica, now 10 years ago.

There was, however, a lot more riding on the outcome of the vote than international reputation and the healing of past wounds. If the Labour party refused to support the vote, the Dutch government was in jeopardy of falling.
The decision comes less than a week after U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende. "Let me say to the population that the work that is being done in Afghanistan is extremely important. It is an international effort and I think we all have a stake in it. No-one can afford to see a destabilized Afghanistan," the Secretary-General said to the press.

Balkenende's center right party openly discussed sending 1200 troops to the embattled country last year, but backed off when polls showed close to 70% of the Dutch population was opposed to the idea. Polls this week displayed a dip in those numbers, however, with disapproval ratings in the 40 per cent range. Because this was still higher than those who supported the plan, however, the debate that followed was reportedly fiery and emotional. Nevertheless, only the Liberal D66 party, the smallest party in the governing coalition, officially voiced opposition to the plan. Their argument was based on the belief that the Netherlands would inherit hostility generated by US failures in the region.

The Dutch deployment will come as good news for the British and Canadian forces already in Kabul and Kandahar, as both countries are expected to shoulder much of the load once the thinly stretched U.S. army withdraws from the region. Canada recently added 140 soldiers to the 650 already stationed in the increasingly unstable southern Afghanistan, and it plans to send 1300 more troops in February.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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