Daniel Korski

Going Dutch | 23 February 2010

Going Dutch | 23 February 2010
Text settings

"Going Dutch" will take on a whole new meaning now that the collapse of the Dutch government looks set to result in the country's departure from Afghanistan. Withdrawal had been on the cards for at least a year - especially as the coalition Labour party had campaigned to return Dutch troops at the last election. But now the process has gone into overdrive.


Militarily, the competent Dutch forces will be sorely missed. They have done a really quite impressive job in Uruzgan province. But the Dutch pullback will be an even bigger problem politically. NATO likes to refer to the dictum it formulated during the Balkan operations - "in together, out together". Now, there is nothing stopping the Canadians leaving next year, for instance, or for pressure to build in other European capitals for a departure.


That's a shame. Two weeks into the battle for Marjah, and it already looks like a success. Throw in the capture of senior Taliban leaders in Pakistan, and what seems to be a new level of cooperation between Pakistani and U.S. intelligence officials, and February 2010 looks as though it could be a decisive period in the nine-year long war. The Dutch announcement rather undermines that.


What to do? One option would be to see if a collection of allies - for example, the Nordic countries - might join together and create a multi-country brigade. The Danes, Swedes, Norwegians, Finns and Poles did just that in Doboj in northern Bosnia in the 1990s. Such cooperation would probably create more synergies than if other countries were to create a new multi-national contingent.


The chances of this, however, look slim. Danish forces might not mind leaving Helmand, and taking on the Taliban elsewhere. But it is hard to see the other Nordic countries being prepared to move into the eye of the storm - even if that storm looks like it is quietening down. So that means the US will probably have to fill the breach, which could dissipate Obama's surge and add to Washington's increasing annoyance with its European allies.