Netherlands to extend involvement in Mali, Iraq and Afghanistan missions

(L-R) Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel, Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte and Luxembourg's Prime Minister Xavier Bettel arrive together at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium, March 10, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman

Through its participation in MINUSMA the Netherlands contributes to stability in Mali and, with it, the wider Sahel region


In the government’s view the international security situation demands that the Netherlands continue to shoulder its responsibility. Military and civilian contributions to missions focus on the arc of instability around Europe, which has a direct impact on our own security. The chief priorities are to counter terrorism and prevent irregular migration.

The mandates for Dutch participation in MINUSMA in Mali, the anti-ISIS coalition and Resolute Support in Afghanistan all expire at the end of the year. The caretaker government feels obliged to take a decision on this issue because the Netherlands wishes to be a reliable partner for its allies, for planning purposes. It also wants to give members of the armed forces who may be deployed, and their families, as much advance notice as possible. The current decision extends the Dutch contribution to these three missions to the end of 2018.

Through its participation in MINUSMA the Netherlands contributes to stability in Mali and, with it, the wider Sahel region. A stable Sahel is in Europe’s direct interest. As before, next year the Dutch UN troops will focus mainly on gathering and analysing intelligence for the UN mission. The heart of the Dutch contribution will consist of a unit for long-distance reconnaissance with support from national forces. The Netherlands will also provide a number of staff officers, personnel of the Royal Military and Border Police and civilian advisers. With Germany taking over the running of Camp Castor at the end of this year, the number of Dutch troops in the mission can be reduced to a maximum of 250.

By extending its contribution to the international coalition against ISIS, the Netherlands is helping to crush the terrorist organisation’s operational power and undermine its ideological appeal. Around 155 Dutch trainers support and advise the Iraqi armed forces, and from early January four Dutch F-16s will again be deployed to Iraq and eastern Syria. A detachment of around 150 military personnel will also be deployed in support of these aircraft. Defeating ISIS over the long term also involves halting the flow of foreign fighters, shutting off ISIS’s sources of income and refuting the group’s perverse ideology, and the Netherlands will continue its efforts in this regard. Stabilising and rebuilding recaptured areas is also an essential part of this process.

Around 100 soldiers will continue to participate in Resolute Support in Afghanistan. Since 2015, domestic security has been the responsibility of the Afghan government, but for the time being, international involvement remains necessary. The NATO mission focuses on training, advising and assisting the Afghan army and police. Dutch advisers share their knowledge with regard to operational planning, logistics, operational management and gender issues. The medical, transport and security units ensure that the NATO advisers in and around Mazar-e Sharif can continue to do their work. At NATO’s request, the Netherlands will also send a surgical team to Afghanistan in early 2018.

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Mareeg senior news editor since 2001 and he can be reached at news@mareeg.com