Dutch Government Collapses Over Afghanistan Mission

Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 02/21/2010 - 12:41pm.

The Dutch government coalition collapsed early Saturday over a NATO request to extend the country's military mission to Afghanistan, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported.

In a statement announcing his cabinet's fall Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende said he would visit Queen Beatrice later in the day to offer the resignation of the Labour Party members of his government.

"As chairman of this government, I was forced to establish there is no fruitful road for this cabinet to continue," said Mr. Balkenende after a 16-hour marathon meeting failed to save the three-party coalition.

The stand-off came after Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos, leader of the Labour Party, drew a line in the sand over extending the Dutch mission in the southern Afghan province of Uruzghan. Bos resolutely rejected a NATO request to remain in Afghanistan.

He added that remarks by Labour, demanding a rejection of NATO's request to remain active in the Afghan province of Uruzghan, "placed a political mortgage" on the coalition's cooperation and blocked a well-balanced debate about the extension of the mission in the Asian country.

The leading coalition party, Balkenende's Christian Democrats supported extending the military mission, which is due to end in August. The Dutch were asked to maintain a smaller mission of 500 to 700 soldiers for training afghan security forces.

The current government is Balkenende's fourth cabinet. It was also the fourth time that he failed to carry a coalition to the end of a full four-year term.

During three years of government, many decisions were made only after long disagreement inside the cabinet. These included plans to raise the government pension age, how long to try to keep government expenditures up in the wake of the economic downturn, and whether or not to keep investing in the development of a new fighter plane, the Joint Strike Fighter.

Recent opinion polls in the Netherlands have shown many neither support nor understand the continued troop deployment in Afghanistan, especially in the wake of controversial Dutch government support for the invasion of Iraq.

The fall of the government may help the Netherlands. The Dutch pulling out of Uruzghan is a source of irritation in NATO and Washington, but a cabinet crisis is seen as a reasonable excuse, even if the result - pulling out of Uruzghan - remains the same.

February 20, 2010 - posted at XinhuaNet

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Submitted by SadInAmerica on Sun, 02/21/2010 - 12:41pm.