Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dutch government collapses over Afghanistan commitment

Does Saturday's collapse of the ruling coalition in the Netherlands signal the beginning of the end of NATO's military role in Afghanistan? From Amsterdam comes reports that the minority Labor Party has left Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's coalition after days of talks about extending the mission of the 2,000 Dutch soldiers in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province. Labor balked at Balkenende's demand that partners in the Christian Democratic Alliance-led coalition approve a two-year extension of the troops' mission, which is scheduled to end in August, according to the Cable News Network (CNN). "There is no longer a fruitful path" for the three-year-old coalition," Balkenende said. Deputy Prime Minister Wouter Bos, the Labor leader, said the three-party alliance was no longer sustainable, CNN said. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen requested the extension earlier this month, CNN said. The Dutch forces' mission was last extended in 2007. Balkenende, who has been prime minister since 2002, said Saturday that he would submit the resignations of the 25 cabinet members to Queen Beatrix later today, meaning new election could be held as early as June. But if the war in Afghanistan is as unpopular in countries across the NATO alliance as it is in the Netherlands, and it appears to be, NATO's commitment to the U.S.-led mission there could soon be curtailed or terminated.

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