Socialist Worker

Anger over Afghan war topples Dutch government

by Mark L Thomas
Issue No. 2190

The Dutch government collapsed last weekend as the Afghan war claimed yet another victim.

The Dutch are the eighth biggest provider of troops for the Western occupation of Afghanistan.

The troops are now set to withdraw from the country in a blow to Barack Obama’s plans to escalate the war.

Dutch prime minister Jan-Peter Balkenende wanted to extend the country’s military presence in Afghanistan, even though the parliament voted to withdraw all troops by the end of 2010.

The US and Nato had put pressure on the government to reverse this decision.

The Dutch Labour Party, Balkenende’s coalition partner, supported sending troops to Afghanistan in 2006.

But it has now decided that it can no longer support the war, and has pulled out of the ruling coalition, triggering its collapse.

Opinion polls show that the majority of Dutch people want the troops to leave Afghanistan.

Popular anger has been increased by a recent government inquiry that ruled that the 2003 war in Iraq was illegal.

Balkenende was the prime minister at the time. He backed the invasion.

The Labour Party has seen its support fall—because of its support for the war in Afghanistan and neoliberal policies.

It hopes leaving the government will boost its standing ahead of important local elections next month.

Dutch troops are mainly based in Uruzgan. This is next to Helmand province where 15,000 US and British troops are involved in the biggest offensive since the 2001 invasion around the town of Marjah.

The US government has been desperately trying to get other Nato members to increase the numbers of troops in Afghanistan.

The US is sending 30,000 more troops and wanted 10,000 additional troops from its Nato allies. It is now set to get 1,000—half of them from Britain.


The terrible cost of the war was seen again last weekend when a Nato air strike killed at least 33 civilians in Uruzgan.

A Nato “aerial weapons team” hit three minibuses in a convoy.

The governor of the province said that all the dead were civilians. Nato last week admitted that it had killed 12 civilians when it sent rockets into a home in Marjah.

Civilian deaths are deepening opposition to the occupation.

Even the US-backed president Hamid Karzai has had to give some expression to the anger.

He held up a picture in parliament last week of an eight year old girl whose relatives were killed during the assault on Marjah.


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Tue 23 Feb 2010, 19:25 GMT
Issue No. 2190
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