The Dutch government, lead by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende, has won a parliamentary vote to send more troops to Afghanistan. The controversial deployment was approved by parliament late on Thursday evening. The main parties in the centre-right coalition backed the move and despite earlier misgivings from the smaller D66 party, the bill was passed.
But the question of the deployment has provoked much debate within the Netherlands over whether the country should participate in international peacekeeping. The Dutch have been reluctant to take on risky military engagements since the Srebrenica massacre in 1995 when their troops were forced to abandon the enclave to Bosnian Serb forces. The troops being sent to Afghanistan – some 1,400 – are intended to be part of a planned expansion from NATO bases in the north, the west and the capital Kabul. But the move south will take the force into more dangerous territory. Earlier this year three members of the Canadian contingent were killed, illustrating the risks associated with an Afghan military tour.