Canadian, Dutch commanders exchange lessons on troops' withdrawal from Afghanistan

09:44, August 21, 2010      

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The Netherlands expressed their support of the war in Afghanistan Friday despite beginning their withdrawal earlier this month as the Dutch's military commander wrapped up a three-day visit of Canada.

Dutch General Peter van Uhm said the Netherlands stands " shoulder-to-shoulder" with Canada in their role in Afghanistan, as well as other conflict zones across the world where both countries are deployed.

"Like we are here, standing shoulder-to-shoulder, our soldiers are on several missions ... together shoulder-to-shoulder,"said van Uhm standing next to Canada's Chief of Defense Staff General Walter Natynczyk in Ottawa at the Ottawa International Airport.

The Netherlands ended their mission in Afghanistan at the beginning of August following four years of service. They suffered 24 fatalities.

Most of the Netherlands' 1,950 soldiers are expected to return home by September. Most of their hardware, including four F-16 fighter jets, will remain in Afghanistan until the end of the year.

Canada plans to withdraw their 2,800 troops next summer. Canada has so far suffered 151 casualties since the mission's start in 2002.

"I've been there the last few years every three-to-four months and I've seen the progress your soldiers, our soldiers together, with the Afghans, have made,"said van Uhm."The Netherlands will stay committed to Afghanistan."

But he didn't elaborate on how exactly the Dutch would physically assist the mission.

The Dutch are to be replaced by a coalition force of Slovak, Singaporean and Australian soldiers led by the Americans.

Natynczyk said he spoke with the Dutch general about many topics during his visit to Canada.

One was to see the lessons learned by the Dutch "in terms of their transition of the mission,"said Natynczyk, that may help Canada's transition in 2011.

Natynczyk said Canada's withdrawal will be more like handing off the baton to someone else as the United States already outnumber Canadians troops by a ratio of four-to-one.

The Afghan war wasn't easy on van Uhm. Two days after he was appointed commander of the armed forces in April 2008 his son Lieutenant Dennis van Uhm, 23, was killed in a blast returning to his base following a reconnaissance mission in the southern province of Uruzgan.

The war has cost the Dutch 1.8 billion U.S. dollars.



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