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Dutch government seeks to win over Afghan doubters

Dutch government seeks to win over Afghan doubters

The Dutch government modified its proposed mission to train Afghan police Thursday, hoping to win the approval of reluctant lawmakers.
The proposal for the 545-strong training mission is the first major test of Prime Minister Mark Rutte's maneuverability in a parliament where his two-party conservative coalition is in the minority.
In a key concession to opposition lawmakers, the government said it will increase training from six to 18 weeks for Afghan police recruits in the northern province of Kunduz.
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 mission, Rutte's administration said "the Dutch approach to training will rise above" police training courses currently run by NATO in Afghanistan.
"The new approach is better adapted to the reality in Afghanistan and more focussed on civilian tasks," the letter said.
The government also will seek a commitment from Afghan authorities that Dutch-trained police will not be used for military missions.
The opposition Labor Party, which opposes the mission, said such a pledge would likely be meaningless in Afghanistan.
"It is an illusion to say that the police we train will only carry out (civilian) police work," said Labor's Frans Timmermans.
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 The troops were ultimately withdrawn after a four-year deployment that cost the lives of 24 Dutch soldiers.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."