Dutch likely to reduce Afghan commitment

The Dutch government has indicated it is likely significantly to scale down its mission in Afghanistan after 2010, at the very moment newly-installed US President Barack Obama is looking for international support for a troop surge in the country.


AFP - Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende reiterated Friday that the 1,600 Dutch troops in Afghanistan would end their mission in 2010 but could contribute a smaller mission after that.

"We will stop in (the restive southern province of) Uruzgan in 2010," Balkenende told a news conference.

"An important mission of the size that we have at the moment in Uruzgan, and which ends in 2010, that is difficult," he said.

But he did not exclude having a "small mission" by the Dutch military after that date.

"If there are requests, we can talk about it. But there are no requests at the moment," he said.

When it renewed the mission two years ago, the Dutch government vowed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by 2010. The Netherlands is part of a NATO-led force of 51,000 troops fighting in Afghanistan.

Speculation has mounted in the Netherlands that the Dutch government could change its position if US President Barack Obama, who has vowed to make Afghanistan the central front in the "war on terror," asked for The Hague to make an effort.

Balkenende said that for any mission after 2010, "we will have to take into account every circumstance, demands from Afghanistan, the United Nations and NATO."

"But we will especially have to take into account the capacity of our army and its other activities in the world," he said.

The Netherlands has deployed 1,200 in Uruzgan, while Dutch troops are also stationed in Kabul and Kandahar in the south.

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