- Category: News
- Created on Thursday, 15 December 2011 12:33
- Written by Amsterdam Herald
Mr Rutte was speaking during a two-day visit to Kunduz, where Dutch forces are training Afghan police as part of Nato’s efforts to rebuild the country.
“We have a chance to broaden the mission by training border police and civilian police outside the city,” he told De Volkskrant.
Aware of the sensitive political nature of his comments, the prime minister immediately qualified them by stressing that the final decision rested with MPs.
“We will discuss this opportunity step by step with Parliament,” he added. “It doesn’t help the process if I say whether I am in favour. It is a delicate political question.”
The centre-right minority cabinet needed the votes of two minor parties, the Green Left (GroenLinks) and the Christian Union (CU), the last time it sought the backing of the lower house.
However, the two parties gave their support on the condition that only civilian police would be trained. Extending the mission to include Afghanistan’s border police, who have a fighting capacity, would appear to go beyond this agreement.
The prime minister says he wants to “investigate” how far the border police in the north of the country, where Dutch forces are based, are involved in military work.
Disagreements about the scope of the Dutch mission in Afghanistan triggered the fall of the last cabinet in February 2010, when Labour (PvdA) ministers withdrew in protest over a planned extension.
The operation has also struggled to convince Afghans to sign up. Some trainers have been sent home early because of a lack of recruits and the size of the next group to go out has been halved. There has been a more enthusiastic response to recruitment efforts for the border police.
Addressing Dutch forces at their Kunduz base, Mr Rutte focused on the global significance of their presence, which he said was “in the interests of Afghanistan, but also incredibly important for the Netherlands and the west.”
“There may be much political discussion in the Netherlands about the mission, but let there be no misunderstanding about the 100 per cent support for our men and women here,” he added.