Coalition forces – Netherlands
In 2006 the Netherlands government decided to send 1800 troops to participate in the NATO-led (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation) International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in southern Afghanistan. From August 2006 onward about 1,750 Dutch troops were deployed in Afghanistan as Task Force Uruzgan under the ISAF Stage III, principally as the the core of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Uruzgan. The Australian Reconstruction Task Force in Uruzgan was fully integrated into the Dutch-led PRT. Another 200 Dutch troops were deployed long-term in Kandahar, and a further 200 for the duration of the Dutch command of the multinational regional ISAF on rotation from August 2006 to May 2007. Two hundred Netherlands troops were also stationed in Kabul. Dutch forces in Uruzgan are mainly located in Tarin Kowt (1,000) and Deh Rawood (370), with a Forward Operating Base Poentjak. Command of the ISAF Regional Command – South rotated between the Netherlands and the UK. At the height of the Dutch deployment, the Netherlands military had elements based in Deh Rawood and Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan, Kandahar, Kabul, Mazar-E-Sharif, and the United Arab Emirates. The Dutch-led Provincial Reconstruction Team included forces from the United States, Australia, Belgium, Slovakia, France and Singapore.
In 2009 the Netherlands government announced it would withdraw all combat forces from Afghanistan. A key issue for Australia concerned the viability of the present Australian deployment at Tarin Kowt when the Dutch deployment ended. In June 2009 the Defence Minister told his Dutch counterpart that Australia will not be taking over Holland’s leadership role in southern Afghanistan. The last major unit left Uruzgan in August 2010, handing over local command to US and Australian forces. The largest base, camp Holland, was renamed Multinational Base Tarin Kowt (MBTK) and placed under Australian command, as part of an ISAF multinational Combined Team Uruzgan.
Note that a key source for the Dutch deployment, Uruzgan Weblog, was closed completely in 2008. It may still be possible to find remnants in cached sites etc.
Translation tool for Dutch-to-English: Babel Fish
Which units? Afghanistan, Ministry of Defence, Netherlands [retrieved 16 August 2010]
Dutch military personnel operate in various parts of Afghanistan, contributing to reconstruction and improving security. Below is an overview of which units of the Defence organisation are working at what locations.
• Battle Group
• Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team
• Provincial Reconstruction Team
• Logistic Support Detachment
• Staff of Task Force Uruzgan
• Provincial Reconstruction Team
• Battle Group
• Apache Detachment (Air Task Force)
• Staff and part of Operational Mentoring and Liaison Team
• Logistic Support Detachment, including
• Role II hospital, including a surgical team
• Engineer company
• Logistic support for ISAF headquarters
• ISAF HQ
• Commander, Kandahar Airfield
• Headquarters, Regional Command South
• F-16 Detachment (Air Task Force)
• Chinook/Cougar Detachment (Air Task Force)
• Surgical Team, Role III (in rotation)
• Joint Support Detachment
• Contingent Commander and staff
• European Gendarmerie Force (EGF)
United Arab Emirates
• C-130 detachment
• Forward Support Element
Kamerbrief inzake stand van zaken Afghanistan [Letter to Parliament on the state of affairs in Afghanistan], Ministry of Defence, 26 maart 2010
International partners, Afghanistan, Ministry of Defence, Netherlands [retrieved 16 August 2010]
The Netherlands is lead nation in the province of Uruzgan. Various nationalities work together in Task Force Uruzgan.
The United States: The United States has two Brigade Combat Teams in the southern region of Afghanistan. A US helicopter unit consisting of 25 helicopters and 800 personnel, including a Police Mentoring Team (PMT), is deployed in Tarin Kowt.
Australia: Australia has a Mentoring Task Force (MTF) operating in Uruzgan. In addition, Australia provides a surgical team for the Role 2 hospital at Kamp Holland. The staff of Task Force Uruzgan is also supported by Australia, with four staff officers and ten civilian police officers.
Slovakia: Slovakia currently has 100 military personnel deployed for guard duties in Tarin Kowt and Deh Rawod.
France: France provides about 70 troops in support of the build-up of the Afghan army and operates from Deh Rawod.
Singapore: In September 2009, Singapore deployed a Weapon-Locating Radar with 17 military personnel in Tarin Kowt. This system detects projectiles and missiles. Singapore also contributes medical personnel to the hospital at Kamp Holland.
Belgium: Belgium contributes six F-16s at Kandahar Airfield. The Netherlands provides logistic support for this contribution.
Facts and Figures: The Netherlands in Afghanistan, Koninkrijk der Nederlanden [Government of the Netherlands], 22 February 2007 [English]
The Netherlands in Afghanistan, Ministry of Foreign Affairs / Development Cooperation of the Netherlands, December 2006 [English]
“As military as necessary…
“In recent years, the Netherlands took part in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), the international coalition led by the US, deploying planes, helicopters, ships and Special Forces in the fight against terrorism. The Netherlands has now terminated these activities.
“The Netherlands has also played an important role in building the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). In 2002 an army company was deployed and staff personnel assigned to the various headquarters; in 2003, the Netherlands headed ISAF together with Germany; in 2004 an Apache helicopter unit was assigned to Kabul and a Provincial Reconstruction Team was set up in Baghlan; and in 2005 F16 fighter plane units did a tour of duty in Afghanistan. All in all, the Netherlands has been an important factor in ISAF. Also, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, is a Dutch diplomat with considerable experience of work at the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
“At this time, between 1500 and 1800 Dutch troops are stationed in the southern province of Uruzgan. Their mission is to provide the security needed for reconstruction. The troops are divided between two bases. Approximately 1200 troops are stationed at Tarin Kowt, the larger of the two. The smaller one is in Deh Rawood, where some 300 soldiers are working. Part of of all these soldiers form the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT). Another 300 Dutch troops are stationed at Regional headquarters in Kandahar. The troops in the south of Afghanistan are supported by six Apache combat helicopters, five Cougar helicopters and six F16 fighter planes. Staff from the Koninklijke Marechaussee, the Royal Military and Border Police, have been assigned to Uruzgan to train the Afghan police.”
News, Ministry of Defence, The Netherlands [English]
Useful, regularly updated Ministry news bulletins. The remainder of the English-language site is empty.
Missies: Afghanistan (ISAF), Ministerie van defensie [Ministry of Defence] [Dutch]
Large useful site.
Afghanistan, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs [English]
Useful large site, with regular news updates and background information on policy, military organisation and operations, and reconstruction.
The Netherlands in Afghanistan – bi-weekly newsletter, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs [English]
DoD Press Briefing with Royal Netherlands Army Maj. Gen. Van Loon from the Pentagon, Department of Defense, US, 30 April 2007
Presentation on Uruzgan Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) , Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), NATO, 15 February 2007
“Mons, Belgium. ‘We have seen good results in Uruzgan every time we involved the local population in our reconstruction and development plans’, Lieutenant-Colonel Nico Tak said at a briefing about his recent experiences in Uruzgan, southern Afghanistan, to an audience of the SHAPE Officers’ Association here today. He and his Dutch Army colleague, Lt Colonel Piet van der Sar, both recently returned from their mission in the Asian country.
“Lt Colonel Tak, who was the commander of a Dutch Provincial Reconstruction Team in Uruzgan, spoke very openly and enthusiastically about his mission. He was surprised to find so many different actors in his Area of Responsibility: Governmental, Non-Governmental, Afghan National Army and Police, ISAF, and many others. Coordination between all these actors was a complex and huge task in itself. ‘It all looks very promising for the future’, said Lt Colonel Tak.”
Context Analysis / Uruzgan Province, Prepared by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan
Dutch government analysis of geographic, social and political context.
Netherlands – Support for Operation Enduring Freedom, Central Command, US Department of Defense
Kamp Hadrian is located in the town of Deh Rawood, 60 km west of Tarin Kot.
Camp Hadrian, Wikipedia [Dutch]
Deh Rawod, Ministerie van defensie
Fire base in Deh Rawood, Oruzgan, used by Dutch, US and other coalition forces.
Forward Operating Base (FOB) Poentjak
FOB Poentjak is located at Shurk Murgab, about 12 km northeast of Tarin Kowt.
Poentjak, KRO – Uruzgan, [Dutch]
Dutch Forward Base Poentjak.
Source: Uruzgan, Boejke Pienter – De ‘Way of life’ van de militair
Tarin Kowt [Tirin Kot] area map
Source: Afghanistan, Uruzgan Province, Land Cover Map, AIMS, 2002
Deh Rawood [Deh Rawod] area map
Source: Afghanistan, Uruzgan Province, Land Cover Map, AIMS, 2002
Location of Dutch bases, Uruzgan
Source: Locatie van de patrouillepost Poentjak (© NRC Handelsblad, 20 januari 2007)
Map of ISAF regional commands and PRT locations
[see clickable map on this page]
Analysis and commentary
US to support Diggers in Afghan region, AAP, 16 April 2010
The United States is likely to provide key combat units to support Australian troops as the Dutch withdraw from Oruzgan province in Afghanistan, Defence head Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston says.
Afghans petition the Dutch to stay, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 26 March 2010
Afghans in the Uruzgan province have asked the Dutch not to leave their province by presenting them with a petition. In a document given to Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the Afghans praise the Dutch for building and restoring “bridges, schools and medical centers”. As far as RNW knows, this is the first time Afghans have used this way of asking foreign troops to stay.
The petition was handed over to a delegation from the military base Camp Holland on Monday, during a traditional shura (meeting) with 100 to 150 Afghans. The people who wrote this ‘protest letter’ were local Afghans, who asked district leader Daoud Khan to take the lead. It was signed by several leaders from Tarin Kowt, Deh Rawod, Chora and Gizab. The document was signed by prominent Barakzai-leaders, but also other tribes are also represented.
But members of the prominent Popolzai-tribe have not joined the initative. They weren’t at the shura. Popolzai tribesmen are strongly linked to President Hamid Karzai and to the former governor of Uruzgan Jan Mohammed who was sacked by the Dutch because of corruption and for excluding other tribes. This Popolzai-leader’s network never supported the Dutch presence in Uruzgan.
The text of the petition:
Appeal to the elected Representatives of the Dutch People
We Elders, Maleks and Commanders of tribes from the districts Tarin Kowt, Chora, Dehra Wood and Gizab in Uruzgan with firm faith in God Almighty and believing in the sacred religion of Islam appeal on behalf of the people of Uruzgan to the representatives of the Dutch people.
Cause of our appeal is the discussion of the Netherlands for extending the military contribution to ISAF Mission in Afghanistan.
We fear that a withdrawal of Dutch soldiers from Uruzgan lasting significant negative consequences for until now the very successful process of social and economic development of the Province of Uruzgan.
Roads, bridges, schools, health centre and administration building have been built and restored. Programs for drinking water supply, irrigation, water reservoirs and electricity supply were realized. Many development programs for farmers and for improving family income have been implemented. 70% of families in Uruzgan have directly benefited from the Dutch economic aid to developing Uruzgan. Visible consequence of agricultural support is for example the significant decline in poppy cultivation in Uruzgan.
The economic and social progress would not have been achieved without military protection of the environment by the Dutch PRT. Afghan security forces are not yet capable for ensuring security and stability in Uruzgan alone by themselves. Therefore the civilian targets in Uruzgan cannot be accomplished in the next years without military security provided by the coalition of Netherlands, USA, Australians, ANA and ANP. However, without attaining civilian targets, there will be no security in Uruzgan. In the security network of Uruzgan the Netherlands are essential for Uruzgan because the Dutch ISAF Contingent have developed a strong relation of trust to the population of Uruzgan and without such a relation creating sustain security is not possible in Afghanistan.
We will make our contribution to a secure environment by for example fighting poppy cultivation, corruption and violence of human rights. However, alone we cannot do much in the current situation against violent criminal groups of insurgents.
The Shura knows that the mission for the Dutch troops in Uruzgan was dangerous and it will remain. With sadness and respect, we will always keep the memory of fallen soldiers.
With sorrow we think of the death of Afghan people and the fallen great tribe leader Rozi Khan.
Their death should not be for nothing.
We appeal to the elected representatives of the Dutch population, do not leave Uruzgan in the middle of the process of Province Building and please vote for a temporary extension of the ISAF Mission in Uruzgan in the interest of peace in Uruzgan, Afghanistan and throughout the region.
This appeal has been formulated and signed by the participants of the Shura which was held in Sarshakhli Tarin Kowt.
Dutch pull-out to change balance in Afghanistan, Dan Oakes, The Age, 25 February 2010
Defence Minister John Faulkner has said Australia will not step into the breach when the Dutch leave, making it increasingly likely that US troops, already stretched by commitments in other provinces, will take the lead role.
Dutch confirm Afghan troop pullout sparking fears of domino effect, David Charter and Tom Coghlan, Times, 22 February 2010
NATO was left in fear of further troop withdrawals from Afghanistan after the Dutch Prime Minister conceded that he could not prevent his forces being pulled out this year after the collapse of the Government in The Hague
Dutch cabinet, Balkenende’s fourth, collapses, AP, NRChandelsblad, 20 February 2010
The Dutch coalition government fell because it could not come to an agreement over whether to extend the Netherlands’ military mission in Afghanistan.
Ministers clash over Nato Afghanistan letter, 12 February 2010
Foreign minister Maxime Verhagen and deputy prime minister Wouter Bos appear to be heading for a showdown over Nato’s call for the Netherlands to stay longer in Afghanistan. Bos, who is leader of the Labour party, has always been against any delay in the Dutch withdrawal. He told the Pauw & Witteman show the rest of the cabinet had been told last Thursday they could not count on Labour support for an extension to the Dutch mission. That same evening, Nato made a written plea for the Netherlands to stay on in Afghanistan and train local troops. Verhagen had asked Nato to send a formal request.
Nato troop request sparks political row, nrc handelsblad, 10 February 2010
Letter from NATO Sec Gen to Dutch PM, 4 February 2010
Afghanistan: Pack and Leave, Radio Netherlands, 9 October 2009
This week the war in Afghanistan enters its ninth year. And still the end is not in sight. Foreign correspondent Bernard Hammelburg travelled through Afghanistan in a bulletproof vest where he heard from reliable sources that the Taliban fighting seems to be moving up to the north of Uruzgan, as the fights in the neighbouring Helmand are intensified. “Really scary,” Mr Hammelburg tells reporter Johan van Slooten.
The number of attacks by Taliban fighters in Afghanistan is increasing drastically. General Stanley McChrystal, the US military commander of the international peacekeeping forces, has already warned that all won’t be well if the troops don’t radically change their strategy. After his journey through Afghanistan Bernard Hammelburg believes there is just one solution: “Pack and leave. If we don’t do that, we’ll still be here in 30 years time.”
Dutch may stay, John Kerin, AFR, 26 October 2009
The Dutch appeared yesterday to be reconsidering a decision to pull their forces out of strifetorn Afghanistan’s Oruzgan province where they are supporting Australian troops. [Subscription required.]
Faulkner wants limited Afghan role, Jonathan Pearlman, SMH, 15 June 2009
The new Defence Minister, John Faulkner, has told his Dutch counterpart that Australia will not be taking over Holland’s leadership role in southern Afghanistan. The move is likely to leave the US to fill the void, as it deploys more than 20,000 extra troops across southern Afghanistan.
Order of Battle Coalition Combat Forces in Afghanistan – February 2009, Wesley Morgan, Institute for the Study of War.
News and background sources
Uruzgan, Way of Life Van de Militaire, Boekje Pienter
Large and growing site with index by military specialist.
Task Force Uruzgan, Wikipedia [English]
Very brief article.
Task Force Uruzgan, Wikipedia [Dutch]
Substantial detailed article.
Searchable English-language Dutch news service
Missie Afghanistan, De Volkskrant [Dutch]
Afghanistan special focus section of left-leaning newspaper. Updated regularly.
Uruzgan, Boejke Pienter – De ‘Way of life’ van de militair [Dutch]
Large site on a number of different aspects of the Dutch presence in Afghanistan. Good visuals.
Uruzgan series: My State-failure Blog, (Peter Marton, Hungary)
English-language commentary on Dutch and Australian role in Uruzgan. Useful for links.
Weekly updates from Uruzgan, Militaryphotos.net
Useful private English-language blog dealing with Netherlands forces in Uruzgan.
KRO – Uruzgan, [Dutch]
Substantial website from KRO [Catholic Radio] media consortium. extensive video, audio, image and text files.
Dossier: Uruzgan, Elsevier
Dossier: Missie Afghanistan, NOS Journaal
Missie Uruzgan, de Volkskrant
Netherlands’ Afghanistan policy debates
Dutch consider Afghan training role, Michael Steen, Financial Times, 9 February 2010
The proposal could allow the Dutch to withdraw from Uruzgan while saving face for Nato by maintaining a Dutch presence in the country. Speculation about such a compromise re-ignited over the weekend when Brigadier Simon Levey, a British general overseeing Nato’s training operations in Afghanistan, told a Dutch newspaper he needed 1,000 military and civilian trainers from October. “There’s an urgent need to train future army doctors, engineers, logistics experts and intelligence officers,” Brig Levey said. “If the Netherlands can contribute, that would be good.”
Nato suggests Afghan training role, DutchNews.nl, 8 February 2010
Christian Democrat and Labour MPs both support a suggestion by a Nato chief that Dutch soldiers remain in Afghanistan to train local troops, most newspapers report on Monday. Labour has always been adamant that the Netherlands must start pulling out its forces in August, despite mounting pressure from the US and other allies for the Dutch to stay.
Labour’s parliamentary leader Mariëtte Hamer told a radio debate on Sunday the suggestion is ‘an interesting option’. ‘We want to stop the fighting mission but we do not want to abandon the Afghans,’ she said. The CDA’s parliamentary leader Pieter van Geel said training Afghan soldiers could fit perfectly into a follow-up mission and GroenLinks leader Femke Halsema was also supportive.
US, NATO want Dutch to stay in Afghanistan, Paul Ames, Global Post, 28 January 2010
The administration in The Hague has said it will decide by March 1 whether to agree to United States requests for Dutch troops to remain in the strategic south-central Afghan province of Uruzgan or whether to obey the wishes of its parliament and pull them out by Dec. 1. The 2,000 Dutch soldiers are a small part of NATO’s 84,500-strong force, but U.S. and NATO commanders are worried because the Dutch have spent almost three-and-a-half years patiently building up ties with the local population in Uruzgan, a conservative mountain region believed to be birthplace of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.
U.S. commanders at one time derided the Dutch mission in Uruzgan, accusing them of running from a fight, preferring to work on development projects from the relative safety of the provincial capital Tirin Kot, rather than to pursue the Taliban fighters who infest the outlying highlands. These days American officials at the highest level acknowledge the worth of the strategy, which the Dutch summed up with the slogan: “Don’t fight the enemy, make him irrelevant.”
Dutch mission in Uruzgan: two years, Hans de Vreij, Radio Netherlands, 1 August 2008.
The 1st of August 2008 marks the end of the ‘1st phase’ of the Dutch NATO mission in the Afghan province of Uruzgan. The 2nd phase will last until the 1st of August 2010 and will be characterised by a greater contribution from other countries than Australia, which has been in Uruzgan since the start of the mission.
Dutch Still Divided on Afghanistan Mission, Angus Reid Global Monitor, 23 April 2008.
Adults in the Netherlands are divided over their country’s current mission in Afghanistan, according to a poll by Maurice de Hond. 49 per cent of respondents oppose the Dutch engagement in Uruzgan, while 46 per cent support it. Afghanistan has been the main battleground in the war on terrorism. The conflict began in October 2001, after the Taliban regime refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. Al-Qaeda operatives hijacked and crashed four airplanes on Sept. 11, 2001, killing nearly 3,000 people. The Netherlands committed troops to the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. At least 790 soldiers—including 16 Dutch—have died in the conflict, either in support of the United States-led Operation Enduring Freedom or as part of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Uruzgan, were the Dutch hoodwinked? Louise Dunne, Radio Netherlands, 7 November 2007.
Marico Peters, defence spokesperson for the opposition GreenLeft party:
“People are feeling deceived by the government. What they initially thought of as a reconstruction mission is in fact a fighting mission. It is partly a naive idealism, but partly I think it was also political opportunity. From the outset the mission was controversial and in order to obtain parliamentary approval the government had to redesign the mission to make it look like a reconstruction mission.”
Hans van Baalen, of the conservative VVD party, is less critical of this “soft sell” approach. Van Baalen insists that it’s impossible to predict what will happen in a war-like situation.
“I don’t believe that the Dutch cabinet or NATO tried to mislead the public or parliament in The Netherlands. No, today it is more or less a fighting mission with reconstruction as follow-up. That has nothing to do with misleading but with changing circumstances and trying to look at it from the brightest side instead of being more realistic.”
Dick Pels, a sociologist and political commentator in The Netherlands, believes both the Dutch public and the politicians have a blind spot when it comes to this sort of decision.
“This has something to do with the Dutch national character, maybe our pacifist history, but we’re not prepared to think hard about war. I think we were all shocked by what happened in Srebrenica when the Dutch army was unable to prevent the killing of about 7,000 Muslim men. This made us re-think what our army actually is. And I think most politicians were not prepared to see that inevitably we would have to fight. The ‘yes’ to the mission was expressed on the basis of this optimistic notion. But there was also a selling operation, a spin operation going on in order to sell this difficult and costly mission to the Dutch voter.”
If it was a spin operation, it was a successful one. Dutch troops were deployed in the Afghan province of Uruzgan in August last year, and since then it’s become clear that those troops are too busy with security to offer much in the way of assistance.
Battle of Chora
Battle of Chora, Wikipedia
The Battle of Chora on C-SPAN, 6 August 2007,
Two-part David Axe video report, available on YouTube. Unusual detail on Tarin Kowt and its surrounding region, Kamp Holland, Provincial Reconstruction Team Uruzgan, and the June 2007 battle at Chora north of Tarin Kowt between Dutch and Afghan forces and Taliban insurgents, leading to the deaths of several dozen Taliban and civilians, and two Dutch soldiers.
Axeghanistan Day Eight: Dutch Battle Taliban, David Axe, Washington Times, 19 June 2007.
- ADF – command – Afghanistan
- Australia and NATO
- Coalition forces,
- PRT – Oruzgan
- Mentoring Task Force, Australia in Afghanistan
Additional research: Arabella Imhoff
Updated: 16 August 2010