AMSTERDAM - The Dutch coalition government collapsed Saturday over whether to extend the country's military mission in Afghanistan, leaving the future of its 1,600 soldiers fighting there uncertain. An early election is now expected.
Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende (pic) announced that the second largest party in his three-party alliance is quitting, ending what had always been an uneasy partnership (h e r e).
The Dutch debate comes as opinion polls in many troop-providing European countries indicate growing public opposition to sending more soldiers to Afghanistan amid a global financial crisis and shrinking defence budgets.
Any Dutch withdrawal would be a worrying sign for NATO, which has struggled to raise the 10,000 additional troops that its top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Stanley McChrystal, has demanded to accompany the 30,000 American reinforcements being deployed there
Dutch soldiers have been deployed since 2006 in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan on a two-year stint that was extended until next August. Balkenende's party wanted to keep a trimmed-down military presence in the restive province, where 21 Dutch soldiers have been killed, but Labor was adamant that the Dutch troops leave Uruzgan as scheduled.
*** Meanwhile, protests have been held in Berlin on Saturday in opposition to Germany’s ongoing troop presence in Afghanistan. German news agency DPA reported that between 600 and 2,000 demonstrators turned out to call for a recall of the country’s roughly 4,400 Bundeswehr troops stationed in the north of the country.
Comment: That's the price you got to pay when you interfere in other country. Your own people may not like it...