Dutch support bombing ISIS in Syria despite Defense budget woes
A narrow majority in the Tweede Kamer, lower house of parliament, has thrown its support behind the Netherlands extending its bombing attacks on Islamic States to also include Syria. At this stage the Netherlands is only participating in airstrikes against the terrorist organization in Iraq.
ChristenUnie leader Arie Slob announced on Wednesday night that his party is now supporting Dutch intervention in Syria. A short time later one-man-faction Johan Houwers also stated that he will support expanding the fight to Syria. According to news wire ANP, this means that there is a narrow parliamentary majority of 76.
Minister Bert Koenders of Foreign Affairs is not in favor of a quick change in direction in the fight against ISIS. On Wednesday he told the Kamer that he is concerned about the "unilateral decisions" made when it comes to Syria, such as Australia announcing that they will engage in airstrikes on Syria. He believes that the international coalition should be working together as much as possible in this fight.
Whether or not the Ministry of Defense can actually afford extending the anti-ISIS mission to Syria remains to be seen. Shortly after the mission in Iraq was launched last year, VVD parliamentarian Hans ten Broeke stated that there is no actual money in the Defense budget for the mission. The money was taken from budgets intended for 2017 and 2019. In May the Court of Audit fiercely criticized the cabinet for its budgeting. One of its concerns was that the Ministry of Defense is using all its money allocated to train fighter jet pilots on missions in Iraq. Last month Tom Middendorp, the Commander of the Armed Forces, confirmed that the Dutch armed forces is stretched to its limits.
The cabinet plans to give Defense extra money in the 2016 budget, according to documents leaked last month. The exact amounts will be announced on Prinsjesdag.