Sunday, July 23, 2006


As some of you may know, the presence of non-US NATO troops in Afghanistan is gradually making itself more felt, and this fall the number of those NATO troops will be numerically almost equal to that of US troops. The two forces have different agendas however. The NATO troops operate within the ISAF framework (International Security and Assistance Force), and as the name implies, are more involved in providing a security umbrella for reconstruction "behind the frontlines", while the US troops operating under Operation Enduring Freedom are for the most part exclusively involved with fighting terrorism.

ISAF's area of operations will be expanded to include six additional provinces: Day Kundi, Helmand, Kandahar , Nimroz, Uruzgan and Zabul. Four Regional Commands will be established at Mazar-e Sharif (ISAF Region North), Herat (ISAF Region West), Kandahar (ISAF Region South) and Kabul (Central), and an additional four ISAF Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) will be created in the Helmand, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces. To achieve these goals, ISAF, currently at a modest strenght of 9,000 (provided by 36 countries, including 10 non-NATO ones) will be increased by up to 6,000 personnel bringing the total number to approximately 15,000, which is, numerically at least, on a par with US troop strength.

However, as NATO/ISAF widens its scope, chances are that its troops will see more actual fighting. It seems that lately I was a bit too sceptical about the Dutch fighting qualities, since over the previous months, far from the cameras, the Dutch contingent got quite its share of fighting, with a provisional climax during a ten-day operation concluded just one week ago and of which we now have some more details.

Dutch Apache in AfghanistanThe 1,500 strong Dutch military presence in Afghanistan is mostly concentrated in Uruzgan province, and one of their bases is Camp Holland near Tarin Kowt, the province's capital. Camp Holland, home to some 455 Dutch troops, is scheduled to become the base camp for a Dutch Army-led reconstruction mission, due to start on August 1, 2006 (another camp will be set up in Reh Dawod, also in Uruzgan). Ten kilometers (six miles) north of Tarin Kowt lies the Baluchi Valley, and over the past weeks the Dutch noticed a buildup of Taliban fighters in this valley. Since the valley and its surrounding hills constitute a good fire base for missiles directed against the camp it was decided to remove the growing threat. On or around July 10 Operation Baluchi took off, with Dutch commandos supported by armoured vehicles and for air support their own Apache helicopters and F-16s (the Dutch still have 4 F-16 fighters in AF). 18 Taliban were killed while the Dutch suffered no casualties. The Dutch thus continue to have good luck, since over the past few months, in smaller skirmishes, they killed dozens of Taliban while suffering no losses themselves. After the cleanup, Afghan National Police took possession of the valley to prevent it being retaken by the Taliban.

On July 21, in The Hague, The Netherlands, Gen. Dick Berlijn, commander of the Dutch Armed Forces, provided some background to the Dutch involvement in AF in general and Operation Baluchi in particular.

Ge. Dick Berlijn"If we had not done something then our soldiers could have come under fire and the construction of our camp could have been hindered," Gen. Dick Berlijn, commander of the Dutch armed forces, told reporters in The Hague. Berlijn said the Taliban fighters were massing on terrain on both sides of the Baluchi Valley, about 6 miles north of where Dutch troops are building Camp Holland, which will be their base for a reconstruction mission due to start Aug. 1. "The Baluchi Valley is a strategic position and in the end we decided that if we did not do something about it, it would be a major threat for us," he said. Berlijn said the Dutch mission was carried out independently of a U.S.-led coalition mission in the same region, but added that Dutch and coalition forces coordinated closely. He declined to give any details of the U.S.-led operations. According to Berlijn, his country already has more than 1,500 troops in the country and said that number could rise to around 2,000 before settling back to the 1,400-strong force approved by parliament. In recent months, Dutch troops have killed dozens of Taliban and other enemy fighters without suffering any fatalities.

Back here in Holland, creeps such as Jan Marijnissen, the leader of the Socialistische Partij (SP) and one of those fancy euroweenie full-fledged lunatics in the mold of Zapatero, may equal Islamic terrorism with Dutch resistance against the Nazis:

"During World War II, Dutch people thwarted nazi Germany's destruction machine by blowing up town halls, because this was where the Jews were registered. Things are not all that different in the Middle East. Islamic fundamentalism, including the terrorist wing, is a reaction to Israel's occupation of Palestine, to America's presence in the Middle East and to the West's support of undemocratic regimes in the Middle East."

... but the actions of the Dutch Commandos in the Baluchi Valley prove that the spirit of a nation which once was truly a world power, is not completely extinct yet.