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Dutch troops to stay in southern Afghanistan until end-2010
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17:56, November 30, 2007

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The Dutch cabinet will announce soon that the Dutch troops will remain in southern Afghanistan until December 2010 with a reduced capacity, Dutch daily De Volkskrant reported Friday.

The Dutch ministers will take the formal decision to extend the Dutch mission in the province of Uruzgan, which expires in August next year, at this afternoon's cabinet meeting, the paper said.

Quoting unnamed sources, the paper said 1,400 Dutch soldiers will serve in Afghanistan from next August, some 300 fewer than the current number.

The cost of extending the mission is estimated at between 700 million euros and 1 billion euros.

The Netherlands has come under considerable pressure from the United States and other allies of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to prolong the mission.

But the Dutch army chiefs say Dutch missions abroad have stretched the military to its limit. Opinion polls also show that the Dutch public are not enthusiastic about staying in Afghanistan.

Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen and Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop had both backed a four-to-six-year extension of the mission, which army chiefs opposed, De Volkskrant said.

Dutch news agency ANP said it will still take a further three weeks before the Dutch parliament gives the final go-head. The lawmakers will be briefed on the military strategy by army chief Dick Berlijn.

A broad parliamentary support for extending the mission is likely, as the three ruling parties -- the Christian Democrats, the Labor Party and the Christian Union -- are all in favor of an extension. Some opposition parties have also indicated their support should the financing of the mission be guaranteed.

Dutch paper De Telegraaf reported that since the Dutch troops were sent to Uruzgan in August 2006, the mission has cost some 650million euros so far, much higher than originally planned.

Earlier on Friday, Australia's prime minister-elect Kevin Rudd announced that the country's 550 combat troops in Iraq will be withdrawn by mid-2008.


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