Dutch gov't to put end to military mission in Mali: report

Camp Castor near Gao in Mali, where Dutch soldiers are on mission
Camp Castor near Gao in Mali, where Dutch soldiers are on missionPhoto: Defensie

The government plans to put an end to the Netherlands' contribution to the the UN military mission in Mali, sources told RTL Nieuws. There are currently 250 Dutch soldiers in the African country.

The Netherlands has been active in Mali for four years. The government wants to expand the Netherlands' military activities in Afghanistan, and therefore has to phase out the activities in Mali. According to the broadcaster, this involves a gradual phase out that will likely end in mid-2019. Discussions about this are in their final phase and the coalition parties already agreed to termination, the sources said. The Ministries are still working on the exact planning.

In principle, the current Dutch contribution will end on December 31st of this year. But the Netherlands plans to stay a bit longer, so that another country can take over the duties currently fulfilled by Dutch soldiers.

There have been UN soldiers combating advancing extremists in Mali since 2013. The Dutch soldiers serve as the 'eyes and ears' of the mission Minusma. The Netherlands provides long-distance experts, intelligence personnel and police trainers. They mainly work from the city of Gao, though some Dutch officers are stationed in the capital Bamako.

Since the Mali mission started, four Dutch soldiers have died in the African country. In 2015 captain Rene Zeetsen and first lieutenant Ernst Mollinger were killed in a helicopter crash. And in 2016 corporal Henry Hoving and sergeant Kevin Roggerveld were killed when a mortar grenade exploded during training. The Dutch Safety Board concluded that this accident was the result of mistakes made by the Ministry of Defense - the safety of the grenades was not in order and the soldiers did not have access to adequate medical care. This resulted in the resignation of Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and General Tom Middendorp.