April 03, 2008

“When it comes down to it, we really don’t pay a great deal of attention to the Dutch anymore.”

So says Maj. R. J. Martopawiro of the Surinamese Army. Abu Muqawama pays attention to the Dutch Army, though, because a) they're fighting hard in Afghanistan and b) the political debates they have within the Netherlands on the war in Afghanistan and whether or not it's appropriate to be there mirror, in many ways, the debates held in other NATO countries. This article on how the Dutch Army navigates their colonial legacy is fascinating, though Abu Muqawama wishes they had included a bit more about the jungle warfare school.

“Some 70 percent of the world’s conflicts in the last 30 years have occurred in jungle areas,” said Maj. Eric Piwek, 34, who brought the 31st Infantry Company of the Dutch Marines here from its base in the Netherlands Antilles. “Thus, we must be prepared to go into these unfortunate places to help sort things out.”

Toughening up the Dutch military for missions abroad became a priority after Dutch troops serving with the United Nations in Srebrenica were widely vilified for failing to prevent Serbs from massacring about 8,000 Bosnian Muslims in 1995.

The Dutch government has since sent troops to Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Liberia. In May, the Netherlands is expected to send about 60 service members to eastern Chad and the Central African Republic as part of a European Union mission to provide security for camps of Sudanese refugees.