US President Barack Obama has telephoned Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte this evening according to a spokesperson for the prime minister. During the conversation, they discussed the possibilities of a Dutch training mission in Afghanistan. The two leaders have agreed to talk further at a NATO summit in Lisbon later this month.
In the Netherlands, plans to send Dutch police trainers to Afghanistan have run into resistance. The Dutch Police Union (NPB) rejects the idea of training mission for civilian police with a strongly military character, like the one the government wants to put forward. It says such a mission is too dangerous. Another union, the ACP, wants a meeting with the minister before it casts judgement.
The mission will consist of 50 police trainers, most of them NATO troops under the protection of 300-500 soldiers. In addition, the Netherlands will send four F-16 fighter planes, according to sources in The Hague.
The conservative VVD-Christian Democrat cabinet has not yet tabled its proposal, but is probing the opposition to find out what it thinks about the idea, as the government already knows it will not be able to rely on the parliamentary support of the Freedom Party on this issue.
The Dutch parliament is fiercely divided over the issue, just like it was in February when the Christian Democrat-Labour Party-Christian Union cabinet fell. Back then the Labour Party did not want to continue a mission in the Province of Uruzgan, while the Christian Democrats did.
With regard to the make up of parliament, the new coalition has opted for a police training mission with a military character in the hope such a mission will be backed by parliament.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide