News / Europe

Dutch Government Collapses Over Afghanistan Mission

Multimedia

Stefan Bos

The Dutch coalition government has collapsed amid a political row over whether to extend the country's military mission in Afghanistan. Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende was due to submit his government's resignation to Queen Beatrix later Saturday, leaving the future of its 1,600 soldiers stationed there uncertain.

After marathon talks that lasted till dawn Saturday, a visibly upset Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced there was in his words not enough trust to continue his three-party alliance, amid a row over the future of his country's military mission in southern Afghanistan.

The left-leaning Labor Party leaves the government because it wants the Netherlands to adhere to a scheduled military withdrawal of the bulk of its 1,600 troops from the Afghan province of Uruzgan by the end of August, 2010 despite a request from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to stay longer.

Mr. Balkenende told reporters he would offer the resignation of the current cabinet to the Dutch ceremonial head of state, Queen Beatrix. He says that he will offer the resignation of the ministers because there is "unfortunately no way forwards" for the coalition between his Christian Democrats and junior partners, the Labor Party and the Christian Union. He makes clear that Labor Party statements about Afghanistan have not only put the coalition under pressure but also what he calls "the care due" to Dutch men and women in Afghanistan and "the relationship with NATO partners."

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen had asked the Netherlands to maintain a smaller presence, including a provincial reconstruction team in Uruzgan, to build on the perceived success Dutch troops had there and help guarantee a smooth transition to an eventual Afghan-led operation.

The Christian Democrats and Christian Union made clear they wanted to consider the request and at least come up with a carefully formulated government statement.

But Labor leader, and current Finance Minister, Wouter Bos, said this was unacceptable, as in his words, voters were promised that the last Dutch soldier would be home at the end of the current troop commitment. His party wants other NATO soldiers to replace the Dutch mission in Uruzgan, where 21 soldiers have been killed since the deployment began in 2006.
 
The withdrawal of the Labor Party leaves the largest party, the Christian Democrats, and its junior partner Christian Union with just 47 seats in the 150-member parliament. With no viable prospects for other coalitions, an early election is expected within three months, most likely in May.
Analysts say that could see a further rise in power of the far-right party of anti-immigrant politician  Geert Wilders, whose ranking in the polls rivals that of Mr. Balkenende's.

Dutch residents, who woke up with news of their government's collapse, have expressed different opinions about the crisis. Edo van Boer, for instance, said the break up of the coalition was expected. "It was unavoidable, those two parties, those big parties can't work together they have separate opinions about things. So it was unavoidable," he said.

Yet another Dutch person, who only identified herself as Lydia, believes the government crisis over Afghanistan comes at the wrong time. "They (Dutch soldiers) were building hospitals, schools etc. It was not a military mission. So I think it is very good for the peace in Afghanistan that they should stay but now I think they don't stay," she said.

The Dutch debate comes ahead of municipal elections in the Netherlands and at a time when opinion polls in many troop-providing European countries indicate growing public discontent with NATO operations in Afghanistan, amid a global financial crisis and shrinking defense budgets.

A possible Dutch withdrawal from Afghanistan is seen as another challenge for NATO. The Western defense alliance is already struggling to assemble 10,000 additional troops that its top commander in Afghanistan, General  Stanley McChrystal, demands to accompany the 30,000 extra American troops being deployed there.

You May Like

India PM Modi's party distances itself from religious conversions

BJP under fire for being slow to rein in hardline affiliate groups allegedly trying to promote a Hindu-dominant agenda by luring Muslims and Christians to convert to Hinduism More

Anti-Whaling Group Found in Contempt of Court

Radical environmentalists who threw acid and smoke bombs at Japanese whalers in the waters off Antarctica continue their campaign to disrupt Japan's annual whale hunt More

UN's Ban Urges End to Discrimination Against Ebola Workers

Ban was speaking in Guinea on the second day of a whistle-stop tour aimed at thanking healthcare workers of the countries at the heart of the epidemic More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid