Dutch Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop has spoke of the possibility of keeping some Dutch troops in Afghanistan after the Dutch mission expires in 2010 as planned.
The minister told a TV talk show on Tuesday night that he does not rule out leaving some troops behind after the mission ends, Dutch media reported Wednesday. The last soldiers of the 1,700 Dutch troops in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan are scheduled to pull out by the end of 2010.
Although the Netherlands will no longer be a "leading nation" in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, "we will still be a member of NATO in three years time," he was quoted as saying in the show.
Seventeen Dutch soldiers have been killed since Dutch troops were deployed in Uruzgan in August 2006 as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
Despite the opposition against the Afghan mission among a majority of the Dutch public, the Dutch government decided at the end of last year to extend the mission by two years to 2010.