US expects Netherlands to send troops into Syria

Pete Hoekstra and Donald Trump, Oct 2016
Pete Hoekstra and Donald Trump, Oct 2016Photo: @petehoekstra / Twitter

The United States wants the Netherlands to provide "military assets on the ground" for a new mission in Syria aimed to keep terrorist organization ISIS small, Pete Hoekstra, the US Ambassador to the Netherlands, said to the Volkskrant.

According to Hoekstra, the Netherlands had "very sharp criticism" on the American decision to withdraw from Syria. "So we are optimistic that after this rhetoric and this criticism, the Dutch will continue to contribute to what they believe is needed in Syria." The decision for a new mission in Syria is a direct result of this criticism from the Netherlands and other allies, according to the ambassador. President Donald Trump and the National Security Council took note of this "feedback" and developed a strategy to maintain an "appropriate presence in Syria". 

This is not a "reconstruction mission" Hoekstra stressed. But according to him, the Netherlands has special units that can aid the "security mechanism" the Americans want to implement in northern Syria. "The aim is to ensure that ISIS cannot regroup in Syria and prevent ISIS from reappearing in Iraq."

The US submitted a concrete request to the Dutch government to participate in this mission on May 29th. The question now is under what mandate this new mission will function. According to Hoekstra, no new UN mandate is needed and the Netherlands can act in Syria under the same mandate with which Dutch F-16 fighter jets were active above Syria and Iraq. But whether the Dutch government will see this mandate, which was focused on safety in Iraq, as sufficient for a ground operation in northern Syria, remains to be seen.

The Ministry of Defense told the Volkskrant that "all options are still being considered".