Peacekeeping: September 17, 2004

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With a population of only 16 million people, and a country about twice the size of New Jersey, the Netherlands has managed to send troops to participate in many of the significant military action around the world since the end of the Cold War. Current deployments include 426 troops in Bosnia with NATO SFOR, around 1,300 troops stationed in Southern Iraq, and 230 in Afghanistan under NATO control. The Dutch have deployed six F-16s and six AH-64 Apache helicopters to Afghanistan and also have sent six Apaches to Iraq to support coalition operations. 

The deployments have not been quiet ones. Since the initial Iraq deployment, two Dutch soldiers have been killed with several wounded during sporadic shooting incidents that have increasingly escalated, including hit-and-run mortar attacks against Dutch bases. Previous Dutch Air Force contributions to operations in Afghanistan have been particularly appreciated by the United States. From October 2002 to October 2003, Dutch F-16s provided close air support out of Manas Air Base in Kyrgyrstan, flying a total of 804 missions and sometimes using 500 lb laser-guided bombs and 20mm cannon fire in support of ground operations. One Dutch Lieutenant Colonel received a U.S. Bronze Star for his efforts in keeping the Manas base running. Other recent Dutch military actions have included the transport of Ethiopian peacekeeping troops in support of UN operations in Liberia. 

Unfortunately, Dutch military forces have not always been so successful. In 1995, a 200 man battalion of Dutch peacekeepers were outnumbered and outgunned by an invading force of Bosnian Serbs in the town of Srebrencia. The Dutch commander repeatedly called for massive air strikes against Serbian forces, but. The Serbs massacred 7,500 Muslim men shortly after taking charge of the area and the incident has been called the worst European atrocity since World War II. A report released in 2002 placed blame upon Dutch military and political leadership and the United Nations for failing to take steps to protect both refugees and Dutch forces. Doug Mohney


 


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