Dutch mission in Afghanistan ends after 20 years
The Dutch military presence in Afghanistan will come to an end this month after almost twenty years. To commemorate this moment, the Ministry of Defense has handed over two Dutch mission flags to the National Military Museum in Soesterberg, NOS reported.
"We are leaving with mixed feelings. We see the images of Taliban progressing," caretaker Defense Minister Anke Bijleveld said in a speech. "The security situation is worrying and some of the progress may be lost," said Bijleveld.
Dozens of people attended the flag ceremony, but 25 chairs were left empty to represent the 25 Dutch soldiers who died in Afghanistan. There was also a moment of silence observed for the "many Afghans who have died, the soldiers and colleagues", said Bijleveld.
After twenty years, all 10,000 foreign soldiers are withdrawing from the country, including the 160 Dutch soldiers who were still on the ground there. In April, US President Joe Biden announced at a NATO meeting that U.S. military personnel will leave Afghanistan by September this year.
The Dutch soldiers had been in Afghanistan since 2002, mainly in the province of Uruzgan. Later, the Netherlands helped train the Afghan police force in Kunduz with the aim of improving security and stability of the region.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigrid Kaag emphasized the Dutch have a lasting relationship with Afghanistan. "We have entered into a long-term relationship with the Afghan people. A relationship that we do not want to break 20 years later," she said.