What is state failure? See my conceptualisation of state failure on the right flank below.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Who should stay? Who should go?

MStFB Uruzgan Series update
Recently there was some heated debate in Dutch politics about a statement made by Christian Union politican, and member of the current Dutch governing coalition in the role of defence minister, Eimert van Middelkoop, who apparently said that the Netherlands intend to extend their mission in Uruzgan province, in Afghanistan, beyond mid-2008 (the currently scheduled time of departure). As I have written about this before, this summer, or September the latest, will see the Netherlands review and finally decide about whether they are to remain in Uruzgan, and so Middelkoop's statement was regarded by some politicians, especially from other parties, as a coup, as an attempt to establish a fait accomplit by suggesting to NATO allies that they can rest assured of the Netherlands' continuing military presence in the southern Afghan province.
That would certainly matter a lot of course, given how currently it's not very obvious, to use a bit of an understatement, who would take over from the Dutch there, even partially.
Here's a more amusing part of the parliamentary debate that followed in the Hague.
Socialist Party (SP) MP Harry van Bommel suggested two scenarios. Either the minister had been "dead stupid" or he had actually made a "masterly move" because the Lower House now appears to be stuck with an extension of the mission, according to the SP. Van Middelkoop pondered this, but accepted the choice. "Then I was dead stupid."
Actually, the picture is not that bleak in the sense that at this point opposition to the extension doesn't seem to me like it couldn't be overcome. Predictably, coalition member Labour (Partij van de Arbeid, PvdA) is opposed to the extension. Others, however, like opposition parties VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy) and the PVV (Party for Freedom) seem ready to give support if there are guarantees of more investment for the Dutch military. (Minister van Middelkoop was probably happy then to announce a billion dollars in planned savings from equipment costs - realistic, if you look at my overview of what the Dutch military sold recently.)
This will still be uphill struggle, but it seems like now an extension of the Uruzgan mission, the possibility of which I have tended to exclude up till now, is a possibility. (Balkenende's Christian Democrats, the CU, the PVV and the VVD together make up 52% in the Dutch lower house, the Twede Kamer - 20.7% thus hinges on whether support would be coming from the PVV and the VVD.) Middelkoop's cautious backing off on the domestic scene might indicate the search for a compromise - for avoiding a full withdrawal of troops from Uruzgan, leaving there a sufficient number of troops to make ISAF's Uruzgan mission sustainable.
As to the question about who could come in as replacement, should there be a need for that... On this site I have already pondered the possibility of an Australian-led Astralian-Norwegian-Dutch combination. Letting my imagination run moderately wildly I may also think of British and Canadian involvement in helping out, even if I don't think it's realistic to expect either the UK or Canada to undertake two PRTs simultaneously, taking over Uruzgan beside their respective provinces of Helmand and Kandahar (During the fighting around Chora between June 15 and June 20, British reserve troops stood ready to provide reinforcements for Task Force Uruzgan, according to a June 18 announcement on the Dutch Ministry of Defence site). Some more U.S. troops might also be available (rotated in e.g. from Iraq). But Uruzgan will likely be a trial of whether the NATO alliance is functioning in a meaningful sense. If the Dutch are staying in their current role beyond mid-2008, that's fine. If they diminish their role, but stay, that's also fine, provided that the others are ready to fill in the gaps.
The best, however, would obviously be if someone new would step forward with a generous offer of troops to relieve those who are currently burdened the most in Afghanistan. One of the relative free-riders.
I'll take up an optimistic stance now. There will be one such state, at least. There's going to be some serious thinking now in NATO (it has already started in fact) as to how operations in the Afghan south are feasible, and so the necessary adjustment will be made. And there will be someone stepping forward. It has to be that way.
If that's not the case I'll just shrug and remark what a cruel world we live in.
P.S. To Bob and another anonymous commenter with whom we had a discussion of one of my earlier posts: it turns out that a Labour MP in the Twede Kamer has just asked for a detailed account of the costs of the Uruzgan mission - so hopefully we'll know sooner or later what those include exactly.

No comments: