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'Dwindling support for war in Afghanistan'

15 November 2009

'Dwindling support for war in Afghanistan'

Public opinion appears to be changing in relation to the war in Afghanistan. Ever fewer citizens of NATO member states believe that a military victory can be achieved. The call to bring the soldiers home sounds, therefore, ever louder.

Arjan Vliegenthart takes part in a demonstration against the war in Afghanistan

Arjan Vliegenthart takes part in a demonstration against the war in Afghanistan

This was evident in Scottish capital Edinburgh this weekend as NATO's parliamentary assembly assessed eight years of war in Afghanistan. Senators Tiny Kox and Arjan Vliegenthart, for the SP, participated in the discussion. Senator Kox confronted the meeting with the fact that the more soldiers we send, the greater the resistance from the Taliban and others appeared to grow. “If a military victory isn't possible, only one course is left: to conclude a peace in order at last to bring a measure of stability to the country. That will be very difficult, but at least it offers more of a future than a war which can't be won.”

An ever growing number of people agree with this view, not only in the Netherlands, but also in the United States, Canada and Great Britain. In Britain, people are unimpressed by Prime Minister Gordon Brown's stated intention to send more soldiers. “We took part in a demonstration organised by the Stop the War coalition,” Senator Vliegenthart says. “The call to bring the troops home from Afghanistan appears to be increasingly reflected in the views of most British people. In this respect they are thinking just the same thing as people in the Netherlands: there is no sense to this war and no chance at all of success. So put a stop to it!”

In addition to Afghanistan, the main topic of debate in Edinburgh was NATO's new strategic concept, due to be adopted in 2010. According to Kox and Vliegenthart, there should in every member state be a debate over the alliance's future. They called on colleagues in the NATO assembly to invite members of the so-called 'Committee of Experts', a body led by former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, to appear before their national parliaments. The Committee is charged with coming up with proposals concerning this new strategic concept. “The Dutch parliament has accepted our proposal for such a debate,” says Vliegenthart “We have a unique chance to discuss at long last the future of NATO. It's a chance we mustn't forgo. It's urgently needed. NATO has, it has to be said, clearly lost its way.”

Vliegenthart and Kox are also attempting to win over the NATO assembly to President Obama's call for a world free of nuclear weapons. At a meeting of parliamentarians and action groups held at Holyrood, seat of the Scottish Parliament, Senator Kox noted that on this point too a unique chance had presented itself. “Nuclear weapons aren't left wing or right wing,” said Kox. “They are a deadly and permanent threat to our planet. It's time to press on. In both America and Russia we have a president who says he agrees with this. We've never seen such a thing before. Let's not see this opportunity frittered away.”

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