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Dutch Quit Afghan War (Ssshh, Don’t Mention Article Five)
Posted by on August 1st, 2010

From our partners at

By Steve Hynd

The Dutch are the first but they won't be the last.

The Netherlands became the first NATO country to end its combat mission in Afghanistan, drawing the curtain Sunday on a four-year operation that was deeply unpopular at home and even brought down a Dutch government.

The departure of the small force of nearly 1,900 Dutch troops is not expected to affect conditions on the ground. But it is politically significant because it comes at a time of rising casualties and growing doubts about the war in NATO capitals, even as allied troops are beginning what could be the decisive campaign of the war.

Canada has announced it will withdraw its 2,700 troops in 2011 and Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski has promised to pull out his country's 2,600 soldiers the year after.

The British have already said there won't be UK troops in Afghanistan after 2015 and the Germans are bound to set their own exit date sometime soon.

How's this playing at NATO HQ?

NATO spokesman Brig. Gen. Josef Blotz played down the significance of the Dutch move, saying it did not signal a weakening of coalition resolve.

"The overall force posture of (NATO) and of the Afghan security forces is increasing," Blotz told reporters. He noted the surge of mostly U.S. forces that have recently taken control of key areas in Helmand and Kandahar provinces from British and Canadian forces.

Ssshhhh, nobody mention Article Five of the NATO Charter, invoked after 9/11.

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.

Because the precedent has now been set that said Article Five comes with a small-print caveat: "We'll all come when called but we each alone will decide when we're done." That caveat makes the Charter not worth the paper it's printed on, all because the U.S. insisted the rest of NATO join in a poorly conceived and perpetuated mission for American domestic political purposes rather than for a true existential risk. Try it again – on Iran, say - and the likelihood is that the response will be "Hell no, we won't go!" Heckoffajob, Dubya and Barry!

Whatever you think about the rightness of the Afghan occupation, one effect has been to turn NATO into a lame duck organisation. I bet that European defense Force is looking better and better across the pond.

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