Dutch MPs give Afghan mission go-ahead

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After two days of heated debate, a slim majority of Dutch MPs have voted in favour of sending a police training mission to Afghanistan.

The cabinet decision to send a team to train thousands of Afghan police officers came nearly a year after the last government collapsed in a dispute over extending military deployment in the war-torn country.

Conservative Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition government was forced to make concessions to get the proposal pushed through parliament. Geert Wilders’ anti-Islam PVV party – on which the government depends for a parliamentary majority – opposed the Dutch mission in Afghanistan.

Promises
Green Left particularly struggled with the course it should take, surprising its voters in the end by supporting the mission. The party's new leader Jolande Sap demanded a written guarantee from Kabul that police trained by the Dutch would not be used in any military action.

Prime Minister Rutte assuaged Green Left’s fears and said that he “would propose to end the mission… if it transpires that people are not keeping to the agreement.” One Green Left MP voted against the mission and many voters have voiced their anger with the party on social media.

More assurances
The Christian Union and the Democrat Party D66 also voted in favour of the mission after receiving enough assurances from the cabinet that the mission had a civil rather than a military nature. Meanwhile, Job Cohen’s Labour party submitted a motion to parliament to oppose the Afghan mission and was supported by the Socialist Party.

Details
The new Dutch mission will consist of 545 personnel in Kabul and the northern province of Kunduz, including 225 police trainers and military personnel providing medical and logistics support. Four F16 fighter jets to find roadside bombs and boost security on the ground will fall completely under Dutch command.

In the previous mission - which claimed the lives of 24 Dutch soldiers - some 1,950 troops were sent as part of the ISAF force, mainly in the central Uruzgan province. The deployment lasted four years and ended last August.

(jn/ae)