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

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The domestic heart of darkness

Last week Uruzgan made it into the mainstream global media after the son of the new Chief of Defence of the Dutch armed forces (not the defence minister's son), Lt. van Uhm died in an IED blast along with another Dutch soldier.
The Taliban's information operations department went crazy about instrumentalising this, and they announced both that they deliberately targeted van Uhm, and that they carried out yet another revenge attack for Dutch MP Geert Wilders' film which is, so people say, critical of Islam (I myself haven't seen it, because the video-sharing sites that I check on at times have quickly removed it after it came out; most notably Liveleak did - and then I just wasn't interested enough to see Wilders' film to check back for it. I'm still not interested by the way, I'm more interested in looking at the indirect consequences).
What I find perhaps even more shocking now is that there was a recent Dutch poll in which people were asked if they think an x number of casualties would justify pulling out Dutch forces. 60% said yes... I won't say what number x is, and I won't link to the results of this poll.
I know it doesn't matter that much, but I won't, just like I didn't link to that Wilders movie - you know?
(Now I won't go into explaining the title of this post. Fairly obvious, isn't it?)
And all these IEDs from politicians and the public are threatening Dutch soldiers at a time when two military unions (AFMP and the Christian ACOM, if I gathered these details correctly) are calling for more troops to be deployed to Uruzgan. I can't miss noting the fact that the demand for more troops comes primarily for the sake of increased force protection, but more troops would be better from a counterinsurgency perspective as well.
Hans de Vreij, reporting on the call made by the military unions, describes how big a contingent the 500-strong fighting element of Task Force Uruzgan effectively is:
" It's estimated that the Netherlands has around 500 troops in the province who are actually able to go ‘out of the gate', but of course they aren't on duty 24 hours a day.
Too few people
Given that there always has to be a reserve unit, or Quick Reaction Force, on stand-by to turn out in case of emergency, at any given time only about 150 soldiers are left to do the everyday work on the ground, such as making contacts with the local population, exploring, and if need be engaging the Taliban. So on the face of it the military unions' appeal for more troops doesn't seem out of place. Wim van den Burg of the union AFMP sums up the problem.
"You actually have to monitor the area, and we simply have too few people to manage it. As soon as we turn round, things go on behind our backs that we actually don't want happening, and we can't keep an adequate check on it. We really need a lot more people." "
As to that 60% of respondents cited in the poll I mentioned: they should read this post at Ghosts of Alexander. It's not really only for the Italian public, contrary to what I claim in a comment there.


Bob said...

I was shocked by that poll as well. I didn't expect the written media to sink so low. Which apparently they didn't. It was a multiple choice poll from the website MSN.nl which was then extrapolated to the Dutch people by several newspapers that just copied an ANP bulletin. I'm pretty sure the MSN crowd is not representative of the Dutch people.

Péter MARTON said...

I see.
I should have aimed my remarks more at those behind the idea of this internet poll. It's heartless. So I should have titled this post the heart of heartlessness I guess.