Dutch troops in Afghanistan: SP demands government response to accusations on radio programme

19 October 2007

Dutch troops in Afghanistan: SP demands government response to accusations on radio programme

SP international affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel is demanding an explanation regarding revelations concerning the role of Dutch forces in the war in Afghanistan, matters in connection with which the government would, it appears, rather remain silent. These include the large number of civilian deaths in the battle at Chora in Uruzgan which took place last June, as well as the engagement of Dutch commandos in the hunt for terrorists during the winter of 2001-2002 in the east of the country, an area where the Netherlands is supposedly not involved.

In the battle at Chora in which Dutch troops participated, a large number of civilians lost their lives, estimates varying from sixty to seventy deaths. This happened as a result of the use against the village of Dutch long-distance heavy artillery, in particular the Panterhouwitzer 2000, a weapon capable of being fired from a distance of 30 kms (about 20 miles).

The government's report on the battle consisted of a letter to parliament containing selected passages from four different accounts. It claimed that the Taliban were responsible for the civilian victims. Yet the conclusions of one of these reports, from the United Nations group UNAMA and the Afghan human rights organisation AIHRC, were not, strangely enough, included. This report stated that a majority of the civilian victims were caused by indiscriminate fire from Dutch troops.

Harry van Bommel“Unwelcome facts should not be suppressed," said Van Bommel. "This bloodbath in Chora had, of course, a negative effect on the trust which the Afghan people had in our troops. The government must apportion blame in this. It is not without cause that the Karzai government in Afghanistan is imploring troops to spare the civilian population."

Van Bommel reacted with amazement and sheer disbelief to the revelations on the popular radio current affairs programme 'Argos'. The Argos report stated that Dutch commandos took part in the US-led war in Afghanistan in the winter of 2001-2002. “Parliament has been badly misled, as, it appears, has the Minister of Defence, presuming he isn't lying," Van Bommel concluded. The minister at the time, Frank de Grave, has said that should the commandos indeed have taken part in these actions, he would see this as a major problem. “De Grave was responsible for the deployment of Dutch commandos in Afghanistan and yet from this programme it appears that he did not know about this himself. What kind of government is it where the defence minister doesn't know where his soldiers are fighting?”

Van Bommel is demanding the speedy provision of full details. "Were the Americans able to deploy Dutch troops in areas in which these troops had no mandate to act? If De Grave didn't know about this, what about Prime Minister Balkenende? Or was a section of the army operating off its own bat, entirely outside any political control?”

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