1. Brian Stewart has just come back from Holland and he has a must-read column on the wavering Dutch commitment to leaving Afghanistan. The main issues seem to be a) self-respect, and a desire not to be seen to be bolting just as things are heating up, and b) concern about negative reaction within NATO. Most disturbing, I think, is this passage Brian quotes from a Dutch news story:
For example, Radio Netherlands Worldwide recently reported that Dutch troops, now preparing to pull out of Afghanistan, fear they will be shunned by their allies. “Feelings on the ground in Afghanistan regarding the Dutch pullout are running high among Americans,” the reporter claimed.
“As for solidarity among the NATO members, that’s non-existent. One person I know doubts whether the Netherlands will get any air-cover if it decides to move equipment by road to Kandahar during the pullout.”
The upshot is that the Dutch appear to be having a lively national debate about this, which must be refreshing. At the same time, a political coalition seems to be building around the idea of saving face by providing the trainers the Americans say are desperately needed, along with a few hundred combat troops as protection: “and the Canadians will thus become the first to leave completely”.
2. The folks over at the CASC continue their cross-country tour, hosting debates on the question What Should Canada Do In Afghanistan Post-2011? Check out Terry Glavin’s blog for details on upcoming events Halifax, Montreal, Winnipeg, and Regina. I co-hosted one of the panels in Toronto — my report on it is here.