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Dutch PM: We have to be honest about Afghanistan

SLOVAKIA will soon have 250 troops in Afghanistan, including 50 that are scheduled to leave in March next year to join the 121 Slovak troops already in the country. Prime Minister Robert Fico delivered this news to his Dutch counterpart, Jan Peter Balkenende, at a dinner between the two on the occasion of Balkenende’s official visit to Slovakia on November 12. About half of the current Slovak contingent guards Camp Holland in southern Afghanistan.

Dutch prime minister Jan Peter Balkenende.(Source: Reuters)

SLOVAKIA will soon have 250 troops in Afghanistan, including 50 that are scheduled to leave in March next year to join the 121 Slovak troops already in the country. Prime Minister Robert Fico delivered this news to his Dutch counterpart, Jan Peter Balkenende, at a dinner between the two on the occasion of Balkenende’s official visit to Slovakia on November 12. About half of the current Slovak contingent guards Camp Holland in southern Afghanistan.

The Slovak Spectator spoke with the Dutch PM shortly before his meeting with Fico.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): Before the elections in the US, Barack Obama and John McCain received a briefing from senior Bush administration officials on the situation in Afghanistan, because it was deteriorating so quickly that the new president was not expected to have time to sit around and think what to do. Just how had is the security situation there?

Jan Peter Balkenende (JPB): We have to be very honest in our analysis of the situation. There have been positive developments, but there also have been critical changes. We can see that the Taliban is trying to increase their power. They are jeopardising development and trying to influence people, and that is leading to a difficult situation. The situation is very insecure, the region is unsafe, and we are not satisfied with the work of the Afghan national police. The international community has to show solidarity. We need more troops over there, not just for the security of Afghan people but also for international security.

TSS: Obama has said he will ask for more soldiers from your country. Will he get them?

JPB: We have a lot of troops in Afghanistan, more than 1,600 people. They have been there for several years, and will be there for two more. After that we will decide what we can do. I can understand Obama’s request, because it is important for the international community to show solidarity, which is a matter both of having troops over there and of contributing to social development.

TSS: With Holland having so many troops there, would you like to see bigger contributions from countries like Slovakia?

JPB: It’s important that the whole international community shows its commitment. I can imagine that president-elect Obama is asking all European countries to send more troops.

TSS: Will Obama’s election likely lead to greater troop commitments from Europe?
JPB: Obama is telling other countries to be active, but it’s not just a matter of the Americans – it’s also a request by the United Nations.

TSS: Will you be asking Prime Minister Fico to send more troops?
JPB: I’m very happy with our cooperation with the Slovak troops over there.
If [Slovakia] could send more, it would be OK. But that of course is up to the Slovak authorities to decide.

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