February 1, 2006  

To the Dutch

For alliance solidarity. AFJ understands that NATO is supposed to be a big, happy and victorious family in Afghanistan, but sometimes the truth intrudes. The Dutch, for example, are complaining that this is war and nobody told them. The Hague has promised to send about 1,000 Dutch troops to the restive province of Uruzgan when NATO assumes responsibility for southern Afghanistan this summer. In preparation, the Dutch military intelligence service produced a report describing the treacherous conditions in Uruzgan and predicting casualties if the Netherlands dispatched forces there. Surprised to learn that there was fighting in Afghanistan, opposition parliamentarians began to rail against the mission. Likewise, the Dutch public: One poll found a whopping 71 percent of Netherlanders opposed to the mission. This profile of courage forced the government to drag its feet, despite reassurances from the United States and NATO that Dutch soldiers would receive swift reinforcements if they came under fire. The Dutch Cabinet dilly-dallied until just before Christmas, opting to live up to its alliance commitment, but on the condition of parliamentary approval. Of course, the uncertainty has complicated, shall we say, alliance defense planning. British and Canadian troops are rostered to carry the bulk of the mission in southern Afghanistan, yet neither government can know the number or type of forces it should send until the Dutch make up their minds. Thank God the Red Army never came west.