Dutch MPs want to debate reports of America lying about Afghanistan war

Commander of the Armed Forces, Lieutenant Admiral Rob Bauer watching a dog demonstration during a visit to Dutch soldiers on mission in Afghanistan, 25 Dec 2017
Commander of the Armed Forces, Lieutenant Admiral Rob Bauer watching a dog demonstration during a visit to Dutch soldiers on mission in Afghanistan, 25 Dec 2017Photo: Defensie

"The American people are constantly being lied to", is the conclusion of an institute that investigated whether American money for the war in Afghanistan is being well spent. Those involved knew from the start that the war could not be won. Dutch parliamentarians are flabbergasted and want to debate the matter with Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld, NOS reports.

The war in Afghanistan started in 2001, when a United States-led coalition invaded the country. The immediate cause was the September 11 attacks on the Twin Towers. The Afghan Taliban regime provided shelter to Osama bin Laden - the brain behind those attacks. The regime was quickly expelled, but never really defeated. To this day, there are still thousands of foreign soldiers in the country - including Dutch soldiers.

All-in-al the Netherlands deployed some 29 thousand soldiers to Afghanistan since 2002, 25 of whom died there. Currently there are about 160 Dutch soldiers in the north of the country. The war has cost the Netherlands an estimated billions of euros, according to NOS.

The investigation into the spending of American funds on the Afghanistan war was supposed to be confidential, but The Washington Post managed to get hold of it. Researchers held 400 interviews with senior soldiers and officials They found that all three presidents that led the US in the past 18 years - George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Trump - knew that a stable Afghanistan, the stated goal of the conflict, was impossible.

"It is unbelievable that president after president knew about this," SP parliamentarian Sadet Karabulut said to NOS. "The question for us is whether that also applies to cabinet after cabinet. Have we also been lied to?" He requested a debate on the issue and received support from almost the entire Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. 

"Honest government communication is enormously important, certainly in military missions," D66 parliamentarian Sjoerd Sjoerdsma said to the broadcaster. "We must be realistic about what can be achieved in the short term and the government must report transparently on this."

"Once again it has become clear how easy it is to throw yourself into a war", PVV parliamentarian Raymond de Roon said. "And how hard it is to wriggle out again with good decency. The Netherlands also has its fingers in this."

In a reaction to the Washington Post article, Defense Minister Bijleveld told NOS that "the security situation in Afghanistan has always been complicated and is still not stable". According to her, that is the reason the Netherlands still deploys soldiers there and extended the mission until at least end 2021. "We are not looking at an end date, but at a final situation, namely that Afghanistan is once again able to ensure its own security."