Small number of Dutch soldiers may remain in Afghanistan
A slim majority of Dutch lawmakers late Thursday backed a plan to keep more than 200 soldiers in Afghanistan to protect 50 civilian police instructors from the Netherlands, despite a planned withdrawal of Dutch troops this summer, DPA reported.
Among those opposing the plan were the Social Democrats, who have good chances of gaining a stake in the government in elections on June 9.
The Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) justified its opposition by saying that establishing the protective troop is a back-door way of prolonging the Netherlands' military involvement in Afghanistan.
An earlier showdown over the military deployment had led to the breakup of a government coalition of Christian and Social Democratics in February.
At the time, the PvdA had left the cabinet to push through a 2006 coalition agreement that called for Dutch troops to start withdrawing from Afghanistan this August.
The Christian Democrats, led by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, wanted to move away from the agreement in the wake of NATO requests to keep at least a downsized Dutch troop presence in the southern Afghanistan province of Uruzgan.
The Netherlands currently has 2,000 soldiers in Afghanistan.
The plan for the police protective mission was introduced by the GreenLeft party and the left-wing liberal Democrats 66 party.
It was also backed by the Christian Democrats, the conservative- liberal People's Party for Freedom and Democracy, two smaller Christian parties and the small Party for Animals.
Besides the PvdA, the Socialist Party and the Party for Freedom of right-wing populist Geert Wilders also voted against the proposal.