SP wants to know: “Are Dutch troops coming home from Afghanistan?”

24 September 2009

SP wants to know: “Are Dutch troops coming home from Afghanistan?”

SP Member of Parliament and Foreign Affairs spokesman Harry van Bommel has asked Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen whether the Dutch government intends to hold to its commitment to withdraw the country’s troops from Afghanistan. Van Bommel’s question was prompted by concerns provoked by the minister’s statement, during a news programme broadcast on Wednesday by national radio, to the effect that in his view the Netherlands should give careful thought to the question of whether troops should remain in the Afghan region of Uruzgan after 2011.

Harry van BommelVerhagen’s clear intention is to retain the approval of NATO and of the United States, despite the Dutch national parliament’s decision in 2008 that withdrawal from Uruzgan should begin in August of 2010, with the last soldier returning home in December. “Verhagen has brought the discussion inside the cabinet out into the open,” says Van Bommel. “He wants Dutch soldiers to remain in Uruzgan. I want to know now how other ministers see this. In the press a number of articles have appeared, but Parliament has been told nothing, despite the fact that I’ve already put questions on the matter.”

In setting out his government’s plans for the immediate future in a recent official statement, Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende let it be known that he was unsure whether he would be in a position to take a decision on the matter before the end of the year. But, Van Bommel says, “The decision was clear and must remain clear. Dutch soldiers must return home.”

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