Dutch, Germans Extend Afghanistan Presence

The Dutch and German parliaments approved new military and police training missions in the north of Afghanistan last week.

The German parliament voted to extend the country’s military presence in northern Afghanistan by one year despite the mission’s mounting unpopularity at home. The Dutch legislature approved a police training mission for the same region.

Germany currently has 4,860 service personnel deployed in Afghanistan as part of the international peacekeeping force ISAF. Extending the mandate to January 2012, parliament set the maximum troop number at 5,350.

Reiterating NATO’s commitment to stay in Afghanistan for another three years before transferring security responsibility, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle promised to “make sure that by 2014, there is no longer any need for German troops in Afghanistan.”

Germany is ISAF’s third largest troop contributor and lead nation in Regional Command North which includes the provinces of Badakhshan, Baghlan, Kunduz and Takhār. Forty-five German soldiers and police officers have been killed in Afghanistan.

The German constitution prohibits military deployment abroad. Following an airstrike on two captured fuel tankers in September 2009, which killed more than a hundred civilians, Germany reclassified the Afghanistan deployment last year as an “armed conflict within the parameters of international law.”

The Netherlands had been involved in Afghanistan since the beginning of the war and deployed forces in the southern province of Orūzgān in 2006. Dutch ground and air forces totalled almost 2,000 personnel which took part in combat and reconstruction operations along British and Canadians troops in the south.

Last year, the country’s ruling coalition collapsed when the Labor Party refused to extend the Dutch presence in Afghanistan. The new minority government, composed of Christian Democrats and liberals, favored a 545 strong police training mission to Kunduz which is supposed to be relatively safer than the south.

Because the ruling parties have no majority in parliament, they had to concede to demands of the opposition for its support. Three centrist parties eventually endorsed the mission, after Prime Minister Mark Rutte pledged that Dutch forces would not exceed their mandate and participate in combat operations alongside newly trained Afghan police and paramilitary troops.