News & Current Affairs

February 20, 2010

Dutch cabinet collapses in dispute over Afghanistan

Dutch cabinet collapses in dispute over Afghanistan

A Dutch soldier in Afghanistan

Dutch forces have been in Uruzgan since 2006

The Dutch government has collapsed over disagreements within the governing coalition on extending troop deployments in Afghanistan.

After marathon talks, Christian Democratic Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced that the Labour Party was quitting the government.

He offered his government’s resignation to Queen Beatrix in a telephone call.

The premier had been considering a Nato request for Dutch forces to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2010.

But Labour, the second-largest coalition party, has opposed the move.

Just under 2,000 Dutch service personnel have been serving in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan since 2006, with 21 killed.

Their deployment has already been extended once.

Where there is no trust, it is difficult to work together
Jan Peter Balkenende

The troops should have returned home in 2008, but they stayed on because no other Nato nation offered replacements.

The commitment is now due to end in August 2010.

The Dutch parliament voted in October 2009 that it must definitely stop by then, although the government has yet to endorse that vote.

Mr Balkenende’s centre-right Christian Democrats wanted to agree to Nato’s request to extend the Dutch presence in Afghanistan.

But this was bitterly opposed by the Dutch Labour Party.

The finance minister and leader of the Labour Party, Wouter Bos, demanded an immediate ruling from Mr Balkenende.

When they failed to reach a compromise, Labour said it was pulling out of the coalition.

Nato priority

Mr Balkenende said he would offer the cabinet’s resignation to the Dutch Queen Beatrix later on Saturday following the collapse of the government.

It was announced after a 16-hour cabinet meeting which ran into the early hours of Saturday morning.

The prime minister said there was no common ground between the parties.

“Where there is no trust, it is difficult to work together. There is no good path to allow this cabinet to go further,” he said.

The launch in 2001 of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) for Afghanistan was the organisation’s first and largest ground operation outside Europe.

Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said six months ago when he began his job that his priority was the war in Afghanistan.

As of October 2009, Isaf had more than 71,000 personnel from 42 different countries including the US, Canada, European countries, Australia, Jordan and New Zealand.

Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende

Mr Balkenende had been considering the Nato request

The US provides the bulk of foreign forces in Afghanistan, and President Barack Obama has announced an extra 30,000 American troops for Afghanistan.

The Pentagon has said the next 18 months could prove crucial for the international mission in Afghanistan, after more than eight years of efforts to stabilise the country.

Afghanistan remains a deadly place for foreign forces.

Suicide attacks on Afghan civilians and roadside bomb strikes on international troops are common, with the Taliban strongly resurgent in many areas of the country.

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September 15, 2008

Melbourne jury convicts militants

Melbourne jury convicts militants

Breaking News

A Muslim cleric and five of his followers have been convicted of belonging to a terrorist group which allegedly planned attacks in Australia.

A jury in Melbourne found Abdul Nacer Benbrika guilty of leading the group.

The cell was accused of planning to stage “violent jihad”, targeting the prime minister and major sports events.

Four other men were acquitted. Charges are pending against two others, in what is being described as Australia’s biggest-ever terrorism trial.

September 3, 2008

Six dead in US shooting attacks

Six dead in US shooting attacks

Police cars and suspect's vehicle on Interstate 5 in Mount Vernon, Washington

The suspect was pursued by police vehicles along an Interstate highway

A US man has surrendered to police in Washington state, after a series of shootings left six people dead.

The shootings took place at various places in the north-west of the state.

A sheriff’s deputy who went to investigate an incident was one of those killed; two construction workers were found shot nearby.

Following a chase along an Interstate highway, during which a motorist was killed, a man gave himself up at a sheriff’s office in Mount Vernon.

Local police say the deputy sherrif went to investigate reports of a disturbance at a local residence in Skagit County, north of Seattle.

When he didn’t return and failed to answer radio calls the alarm was raised.

The deputy’s body was found at the scene alongside a second victim.

Then the construction workers were found and another body was discovered on a street a short distance away.

Law enforcement officials managed to track the gunman and a high speed car chase ensued during which the suspect is reported to have been shooting wildly.

The dramatic pursuit ended when the gunman, who was reportedly known to the local authorities, unexpectedly pulled into a police station and surrendered.

Neither the victims nor the suspect have been identified.

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