The Netherlands' coalition government collapsed this past weekend over disagreement about its role in Afghanistan. Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's office said in a statement that the Labor Party had withdrawn from the government following days of talks over whether the troops should be brought home.
Robert Marquand of the Christian Science Monitor writes that the development “threatens to undermine the NATO mission in the central Asian nation.”
“The Dutch collapse brings concern of a domino effect: Can European leaders, who have been out in front of their publics on Afghanistan, continue anteing up – or will this withdrawal further sap a flagging political will across Europe for the mission?” Marquand writes.
Leo Cendrowicz of Time magazine writes:
“The Dutch represent just 2.3% of the 86,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, but they have the eighth largest national contingent in the country, and one of the highest contributions as a proportion of both population and of their overall national army.
While Uruzgan province does not face a security threat as severe as that in Helmand and Kandahar, it is still volatile: 21 Dutch soldiers have been killed since the mission was first deployed in 2006.”
Gavin Hewitt of the BBC says the decision will be “judged in parts of Afghanistan and in Washington.”
“NATO identified 2010 as the year to make a difference, to turn the corner, Hewitt writes. “So it is at this moment that the Labour party in the Netherlands decides to send its message. That is how some will see it in Washington. Rightly or wrongly. That just when the Taliban is feeling the heat, they hear that some nations are tiring of the conflict.”
Some other news reports and perspectives:
- David Zucchino (Los Angeles Times): “Drone pilots have a front-row seat on war, from half a world away”
- C.J. Chivers (New York Times): “Marines do heavy lifting as Afghan army lags in battle”
- Andrew Higgins (Washington Post): “Kabul Bank's Sherkhan Farnood feeds crony capitalism in Afghanistan”
- Rajiv Chandrasekaran (Washington Post): “In Marja, it's war the old-fashioned way”