Dutch Ministry of defense was warned about possible civilian casualties in Afghanistan
Dutch soldiers in Uruzgan were warned by allies both before and during the bombing of the Afghan city and region of Chora in 2007 about the high risk of civilian casualties. However, the Ministry of Defense ignored those warnings, reports de Volkskrant on Saturday based on confidential documents. Ultimately, some 50 to 80 Afghan civilians were killed in the bombing. The Ministry of Defense does not want to respond substantively.
What was the Netherlands doing in Uruzgan?
The Netherlands was on a NATO mission in the Afghan province of Uruzgan from 2006 to 2010. The military's task was to ensure stability and security in the country after the Taliban movement had held power for years (with much violence). During the mission, the Taliban had surpassed the height of its power but had by no means disappeared from the country. There was still regular fighting against the Taliban. The Ministry of Defense had always said that it was involved in a fight against "eight hundred to a thousand" Taliban fighters, including accidental civilian casualties. The secret documents, which de Volkskrant was able to access, however, show that the Netherlands consciously took a risk.
Up to three times, the military ignored warnings from NATO headquarters in the city of Kandahar, according to the log of that time. The Dutch could not clearly see whether the bombs they dropped laned on Taliban fighters or on civilians.
Under war law, the Dutch are only allowed to fire (or, in this case, drop bombs) if they themselves are threatened. NATO doubted that was the case. Earlier, the Dutch legal adviser would also have warned about possible civilian casualties.
Defense: "executions among the population threatened"
On Monday, a case by four Afghan relatives against the Dutch State will be filed. They are demanding compensation because, according to their lawyer Liesbeth Zegveld, excessive violence had been used, and it was not clear why their houses were bombed.
For the time being, the Ministry of Defense does not want to say much about the state of affairs at the time, Major Peter de Bock told NU.nl. "The fact that de Volkskrant has written that the Netherlands had been warned three times does not mean that the Defense organization endorses this. Due to the judicial process, we will not comment on that now."
He does refer to an earlier report on Defensie.nl about the case, which states that the threat of executions was imminent among the local population.
The Ministry of Defense report continued stating that "independent investigations by the UN, NATO and the Afghan parliament have previously indicated that Dutch soldiers have complied with humanitarian law of war. Defense also came to that conclusion. The Public Prosecution saw no reason to investigate the matter further. "