Holland became the first NATO member to complete its mission within the scope of the international anti-terrorist coalition in Afghanistan. Holland was controlling the Uruzgan province; now the control has been officially handed over to US and Australian forces.
Peter Van Uhm, the commander of the Dutch contingent (1,950 men), stated that security in the province had improved considerably during the deployment of the nation’s troops on the territory.
It is worthy of note that the Dutch troops were the first to have introduced the so-called 3-D strategy (Defense, Diplomacy and Development) in Afghanistan. The Dutch servicemen were battling the Talibs, establishing ties with local leaders and launching development programs.
Holland has lost 24 soldiers during four years of its participation in the Afghan war. One hundred and forty other soldiers were wounded. The son of Peter Van Uhm died on a land mine in the country in 2008.
The losses of Holland seem to be tiny against the background of those suffered by US and British troops. However, Holland’s participation in the anti-terrorist coalition, which started in 2006, triggered a large scandal inside the nation. NATO’s requirement to extend the stay of Holland’s military contingent in Afghanistan became one of the reasons which led to the collapse of the coalition government in Holland in February of this year. The talks about the establishment of the new multi-party government are still on. Since the Netherlands have no government, there is no one to extend the service in Afghanistan for Dutch soldiers.
Joseph Blotz, Brigadier General and NATO’s spokesman in Kabul, stated that the pullout of the Dutch troops did not imply the weakening of the coalition troops in Afghanistan. The strength of NATO troops in the country is currently being increased.
Spokespeople for NATO command claimed that other members would continue to support the coalition firmly. It was particularly said that Holland’s decision to withdraw the troops was not a scene of the chain reaction which could occur among other countries participating in international forces.
As a matter of fact, this is not true. Canada is planning to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan next year, the BBC said. Military observers said that Holland’s move was taking place during a very complicated period in the existence of the coalition. The losses have been growing along with the doubts about the efficiency of its strategy.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) currently counts about 120,000 servicemen in Afghanistan. This number is to be increased to 150,000 owing to the arrival of more US servicemen: 30,000 American soldiers will arrive in Afghanistan by September of this year.
It is an open secret that it is the United States and Britain that have to carry the largest burden of the never-ending war. These two countries suffer the biggest losses.
However, Britain’s new Prime Minister David Cameron has recently stated that the withdrawal of British troops from Afghanistan could start already in 2010. Cameron referred to Barack Obama’s remarks about the possibility to start the withdrawal of US troops in July 2011. The new British Prime Minister has to take account of views of the general public, which is not unanimous in its attitude to the war.
Cameron said that he was hoping that it could be possible to bring a part of the British contingent home from Afghanistan. Britain’s defense officials do not share such an optimistic point of view. Mike Jackson, the former head of Britain’s Chiefs of Staff, believes that one has to be careful about setting certain dates for such an initiative. The general is certain it could be possible to hand over the control to Afghan forces only when they are fully prepared to take care of their own security. A certain date would only make the Talibs go quiet for a while before they could resume their activities with renewed vigor again.
Military experts do not think that it can be possible to complete the international mission in Afghanistan. As for the completion of the Afghan war on the whole, it is a very doubtful issue too.
Will the US and its NATO allies keep their morale during the upcoming five years? It seems that the only politician, who is ready to wage war in Afghanistan for ten years, is Georgia’s President Mikhail Saakashvili.
“The presence of Georgian troops in Afghanistan is a positive military experience. We are in talks to have the Georgian troops involved in the operation more actively,” he said.
Georgia ‘s military contingent in the country counts 925 soldiers. If Saakashvili sends 1,000 more to Afghanistan, he will compensate the departure of the Dutch. Washington will most likely be very satisfied. The war per se has all chances to become America’s second Vietnam.
*The post is written by – Ivan Tulyakov