Since February 2009 , this blog and Huib's 3 other Euroblogs are together at:

- In Europa Zu Hause [DE]
- L'Europe Chez Soi [FR]
- At Home in Europe [EN]
- In Europa Thuis [NL]

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Uruzgan: Dutch commandos out of control

A 25 minutes television report "09.11 Zulu" on Dutch television (watch it here at in Dutch) confirms the tensions that exist between the small commando unit at Tarin Kowt and the 1.200 strong Dutch Provincial Reconstruction Team at the same location. The PRT has rules of engagement that strictly forbid an active combat role. The Dutch Government promised Parliament in February 2006, that its PRT operation would be completely separated from the American-led "Enduring Freedom" operation.

But, apparently, at the same time they promised the US and/or NATO that they would join the struggle against "Taliban". But - stealthily. Method: Put local commanders in a position where they have to act aggessively and leave reponsability to them. Afterwards, either Parliament agrees with slice after slice of the salami leading to full-fledged participation in Enduring Freedom, or it doesn't, and then the political leadership washes its hands in innocence.

So it happened that we could see the Dutch Defence Minister, Henk Kamp, visiting the compounds, actually encouraging the Commandos to do their work "aggressively", and at the same time a lawyer of his ministry explaining to the commanders of the Special Forces Unit, that they could not open fire on insurgents, only in case they were directly attacked themselves.

This tongue-in-cheek method may work between state and local authorities in case of "tolerating" hash-vending coffeshops, or illegal brothels - it is absolutely irresponsible , when a military mission is at stake.

The film shows the frustrations of the bearded fighters. Their commanders, avoiding the risk of becoming scapegoats for the Government's hypocrisy, ask a "green light" from The Hague for every action. Thus returning responsability to the supreme command and the political level. Decision making takes weeks and most decisions are negative. In the field, the commandos are harrassed by the American units, with whom they cooperate, to act more aggressively.

Special Forces out of control....
So it is no wonder, that the commandos start risky provocations, exposing themselves in an open field, hoping to be attacked, so that they can "return enemy fire", make prisoners, interrogate them "robustly" (the film shows some examples of intimidation of witnesses and suspects).

Another alarming aspect is the relation that the commandos are developing with the Afghan police ANP. Like in Srebrenica for the local bosnian self-defense units, the Dutch are full of contempt for "those corrupt brigands", lead by commanders who have all their own lover boys with them. One of those boys is shown in the report. All of it seems to be true. Worse still, often local police seem to have an understanding with local insurgents.

The question is: Whom are you fighting FOR? - If you are all alone as an expeditionary force in a guerrilla war, your only chance is to get allies within the population, who eventually will help you isolate the insurgents. If you cannot trust your allies, if you loathe them, you are lost on beforehand.

A perfect example of 'double-dutch' ...
The image of two conflicting policies, personified
  • by the PRT and the SF-Commandos in the field,
  • by, roughly, the Foreign Ministry and the Defense Ministry on Government level, and
  • by the majority of Parliament and a combative minority consisting of VVD and CDA-parliamentarians on the political level,
that we sketched in former posts, is confirmed. It is even worse than we imagined. They cripple each other. Such conflicts are a worse enemy than the enemy in the field.

The "leak" came from alarmed army staff, stuck in a deadlock ....
That is why it is very probable, that it was the Army Central Command in The Hague itself, who "leaked" the story about torturing practices on prisoners in Iraq in 2003, in order to put pressure via the press and via Parliament on Government, resulting in a clear choice for or against participating in "Enduring Freedom", for or against following a "German" peaceful PRT-strategy. Commander in Chief Dick Berlijn couldn't get such a decision from his Minister, nor from NATO (10 days ago), and he must fear for serious disciplinary problems with his Special Forces, that are left bungling. So somebody must have decided, to force a decision this way.

Parliament decided to discuss the problems with Government only next week, after the Wednesday parliamentary elections. Only the VVD-representative pleaded for a complete engagement of the Dutch forces with Enduring Freedom. A large majority seems to be set to put an end to the typical double-dutch situation, in favour of a reconstruction mission.

As one of the commando's in the film says: "If they really want to have a peaceful reconstruction team here, they should send us elsewhere and replace us with a team of social workers. I am here to kill Taliban. We have to show them, who is boss here."

Until the next elections, Mr. Karzai is boss in Afghanistan. Other bosses should leave.

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