Two years after an unexpected surge in Dutch support for the Afghan war, the Netherlands has taken the first steps towards officially withdrawing from the NATO coalition in Afghanistan beginning in late 2010. A non-binding parliamentary decision in October rejecting an extension of the Dutch mission represents a striking break from the overall trend within NATO of deepening the alliance's commitment to the eight-year-old war.
The U.S. military is adding 30,000 troops to its current 70,000-strong force in Afghanistan, while the U.K., Italy and Poland -- as well as non-NATO-members South Korea and Georgia -- have also signaled their willingness to send reinforcements. Combined with other smaller contributions, the additional coalition troops will total as many as 7,000. Of the major NATO nations and their allies, only the Netherlands and Canada are looking for ways out. The planned departure of the 2,000 Dutch troops raises important questions about the Afghan conflict.
The Netherlands' reluctance to keep fighting has roots in a bloody battle two years ago.