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Dutch government wins over Afghan doubters

Dutch government wins over Afghan doubters

The Dutch government won the support early Friday of a narrow majority of lawmakers for its proposal to send troops and police to northern Afghanistan to train police recruits.
The proposal for the 545-strong training mission is now likely to go ahead within weeks, in a victory for Prime Minister Mark Rutte, whose two-party conservative coalition is in the minority in Parliament.
Rutte explained his decision to send the mission by saying the international community "made a promise to the Afghan population for peace and stability ... and I think it is unbelievably important that the Netherlands keeps playing a role in that."
In a key concession to win over reluctant opposition lawmakers, the government said Thursday it would increase training from six to 18 weeks for Afghan police recruits in Kunduz province.
Cadets also will learn about "human rights, women's and children's rights and integrity," in addition to regular weapons training, the government said. Those who are illiterate will learn to read and write.
In a six-page letter explaining the three-year mission, Rutte's administration said "the Dutch approach to training will rise above" police training courses currently run by NATO in Afghanistan.
The government also will seek a commitment from Afghan authorities that Dutch-trained police will not be used for military missions.
"With the concessions of the recent days, my party can support this civilian mission," said Jolande Sap, leader of the opposition Green Left party.
The largest opposition Labor Party, which opposes the mission, said the Kabul government would be unable to make good on such pledges.
"It looks great on paper," Labor leader Job Cohen said. "The reality will be different and that's why we can't support this."
The mission will be made up of civilian and military police trainers with Dutch soldiers as support staff, all protected by German troops. Four F-16 fighter jets already stationed in southern Afghanistan will be moved closer to Kunduz.
The previous Dutch government collapsed last year amid disagreement over keeping some 1,600 troops in the southern Afghanistan province of Uruzgan. The troops were ultimately withdrawn after a four-year deployment that cost the lives of 24 Dutch soldiers.
Training Afghanistan's police force and military by the European Union and NATO is seen as key to the exit strategy of the U.S.-led international alliance fighting the Taliban-led insurgency.
Speaking to lawmakers in Kabul on Wednesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai pledged to take over responsibility for security nationwide by 2014.
"Our Afghan security forces are in good shape right now. We are going to do our best to strengthen the quantity and quality of those forces," he said. "That will give the international forces the opportunity to go back to their homes."
Afghan Interior Minister Bismullah Mohammadi traveled to The Hague Monday to appeal for the new mission.
"We desperately need qualified trainers," he said. "I urge the international community and the Netherlands to help us with their professional police."


Updated : 2021-04-15 08:59 GMT+08:00