According to Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadij, the insurgent group is very happy about the Dutch military withdrawal from Afghanistan that began on Sunday. "We want to wholeheartedly congratulate the citizens and government of the Netherlands for having the courage . . . to take this independent decision," Ahmadij told the Dutch daily Volkskrant, adding that, "We hope that other countries with troops stationed in Afghanistan will follow the Netherlands' example."
Ahmadij's remarks, though intended to be provocative, in fact raise key questions -- namely, how many other countries will indeed follow the Netherlands' example, and how quickly. The decision by the Netherlands to become the first NATO country to withdraw its entire military contingent from Afghanistan could plausibly increase pressure on other European governments to curtail their own unpopular military deployments there. Once Spain and the Netherlands withdrew their troops from Iraq, for example, many other countries followed suit, eventually leaving American troops as the only significant foreign military presence in the country. The same pattern could easily occur in Afghanistan in coming years.
In December 2005, despite considerable opposition in the national legislature and among the Dutch public, the government in the Hague decided to send combat forces to the southern province of Uruzgan to provide security and to support the region's political and economic development. The Dutch government justified its participation in NATO's first out-of-area operation -- and the Netherlands' first combat deployment since the Korean War -- by citing alliance and transatlantic solidarity.