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Plan for war, no plan for peace

3 June 2008

Plan for war, no plan for peace

“You accuse the SP of having no answer to the Afghan problem, but I have to conclude that the government has no answer to my questions. If we're talking about the mission in Uruzgan, you've certainly got a plan for war, but no plan for peace." This was the pointed conclusion drawn by SP Senator Arjan Vliegenthart at the end of this afternoon's debate with Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen.

Arjan VliegenthartThe Senate today held the first of a series of themed debates on the Netherlands' role in the world. With the Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Development Cooperation and Defence, senators discussed the so-called "3-D approach" – the Ds in question being diplomacy, defence and development. According to Defence Minister Eimert van Middelkoop, this was the first debate on this concept which the Senate had ever held. Born out of the events of 11 September 2001, it is based on the conviction that security can never be enforced by military means alone, but must be seen in the context also of development cooperation and diplomacy.

“We have been talking all day about the '3-D' approach, but where is the diplomacy?" Vliegenthart asked Verhagen. The minister was clearly not keen to respond to this in an open manner. "What I'm doing is less visible," he said, "but I am certainly working behind the scenes. We support President Karzai in his attempts at reconciliation but there are limits to this. We are giving money to the Afghan government to use in splitting off sections of the Taliban and persuade them to renounce violence. But we are not going to talk to terrorists who do not first renounce violence.”

Senators from many different political groups criticised this as not going far enough. Both Klaas de Vries of the Labour Party (PvdA) and Britta Böhler of the Green Left pointed to the fact that history teaches us that negotiations with violent oppositionists, for example the IRA, can lead in the end to peace. Senator Frank van Kappen of the VVD (right-wing liberals) argued that the government must be prepared to negotiate with "warlords and rogues who determine the order of the day in fragile states," adding that it was just this sort of diplomatic initiative which formed part of the "3-D approach"..

Verhagen, however, did not see things this way. Perhaps one could talk with a rebel leader in Africa, but with terroristic organisations such as the Taliban, Hamas or Hezbollah, this government did not wish to speak, not even via the "3-D approach".

This is what brought Senator Vliegenthart to the conclusion that the government has no realistic plan capable of leading to a definitive solution to the Afghan problem, and certainly no plan for a lasting peace.

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