The incoming Dutch government may consider a new military training mission in Afghanistan, according to sources close to the coalition negotiations.
Daily NRC Handelsblad reported on Friday that the two parties, free-market liberal VVD and Christian Democrats, have reached agreement in principle to again send military personnel to Afghanistan.
NATO said earlier this year that it regretted the Dutch withdrawal from Afghanistan before the end of the international mission, and the alliance asked the Netherlands to provide a non-combative police training force instead.
Sources in the Dutch political capital The Hague say that there is a detailed plan for a police training mission. Between 450 and 700 military would be sent as police trainers to Uruzgan and other parts of Afghanistan, to a cost of an estimated 200 million euros. Fifty of the men and women will be police instructors and teachers, while the remaining forces would be needed to protect the trainers against Taliban attacks.
The plan is likely to be rejected by the prospective government's sleeping partner, the anti-Islam Freedom Party of Geert Wilders, so the two coalition parties will have to find support elsewhere in parliament. This is considered a delicate matter, since most of these votes need to come from the Labour party. Labour, which is currently in opposition, quit the previous government in protest over a prolonged Dutch stay in Afghanistan.
Whether the plan is ever implemented hinges on the outcome of the protracted coalition negotiations in The Hague, which are expected to be completed before the end of this month. Several of the Netherlands' parties have been negotiating since the 9 June 2010 general elections in a series of abortive attempts to form a viable government. No single party, nor any natural grouping of parties, enjoys the necessary majority in the Lower House.
© Radio Netherlands Worldwide