‘No more troops to Afghanistan is the sensible decision’

19 December 2005

‘No more troops to Afghanistan is the sensible decision’

The Dutch government has not yet had the courage to take a decision on the sending of troops to southern Afghanistan. Such a decision should have been taken today, but has been postponed to Thursday, when attempts will have been made to bring D66 ministers into line. The smallest of the governing parties has this week, against expectations, spoken out against participation in the mission. “The government must have nothing to do with the plan”, says Harry van Bommel. “That would be the best decision for both the Afghan people and Dutch soldiers.”

Following the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers on 11th September 2001, came the American attack on Afghanistan. After the fall of the Taliban government the Americans installed the Karzai government. Karzai's power has always been and remains extremely limited. Afghanistan has no functioning state structure, is plagued by mass corruption, has a pathetic national army, no national system of taxation and no money with which to build some kind of legal order and stability. The whole of the government's income comes from external sources - and the international donors are certainly not keen to follow up on their commitments. They see the country as a bottomless pit.

Following the fall of the Taliban, old warlords and new drugs barons have to a great extent taken over the country. At the same time a fragmented Afghanistan has become the world's biggest opium producer and the major supplier of the European heroin market. Well over half of Gross Domestic Product is directly connected to drugs. With their armed militias, the warlords and drugs barons control most of the country, while their placemen participate in both the government and the recently-elected parliament, a parliament which moreover contains no political parties.

“The Netherlands has no reason to be in Afghanistan,” says Mr Van Bommel. “Our Constitution obliges us to contribute to the upholding of an international legal order. A military presence in southern Afghanistan would lead rather to nothing but disorder, before which the Afghans would be the biggest victim. After all the terrible catastrophes which it has lived through, Afghanistan is certainly a country which needs help. But help does not mean still more war, still more violence, and still more human rights abuses. That's why the Netherlands should give up any idea of sending still more troops to Afghanistan and instead bring pressure to bear for an end to the secret war in the south of the country.” America and NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer are pulling out the stops to force the Dutch authorities to send troops to the Taliban's heartland, where various warlords and tribes are fighting amongst themselves and western troops are seen as enemy occupiers.

Now D66 has said no, Harry van Bommel believes that the government must bend to Parliament's will. The SP and Green Left have opposed this from the start, and were later joined by the (right-wing) LPF. Now D66 (a small party of the centre) has come aboard, Van Bommel expects the (centre-left) PvdA to overcome its hesitations and do likewise.

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