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Netherlands pulls out of Afghanistan

media A Dutch lieutenant on patrol in an Afghan village AFP

Dutch troops ended their four-year mission in Afghanistan Sunday thanks to a row which led to the collapse of the government in February. A change of command ceremony and reception was held at their base in Uruzgan province, where most of the Netherlands’ 1,950 soldiers were deployed.

The so-called “3D” approach of defence, development and diplomacy operated in Uruzgan, was cited as an example for other countries’ efforts. The number of NGOs working in the province rose from six to 50, according to the Dutch embassy.

But the soldiers leave the central province with a high level of Taliban activity and high opium production.

Dossier: AfPak news and analysis

They will be replaced by a US-led force which will include Australian, Slovak and Singaporean troops.

All Dutch soldiers will be home by September, officials say and equipment, including four F-16 fighter jets and eight helicopters will be back by the end of the year. The Taliban welcomed the Dutch withdrawal and urged other countries to follow suit.

Canada is to withdraw its 2,800-strong force next year, while Britain and the US say they will start to leave in 2011 and end combat operations by 2014.

The Netherlands’ deployment began in 2006 and has cost 1.4 billion euros and the lives of 24 soldiers.

A request from Nato to extend the mission sparked a political crisis which led to the Dutch government’s collapse in February, followed by the decision to pull out.

A roadside bomb killed six people and wounded nine when it hit a minibus travelling from Helmand province to neighbouring Kandahar on Sunday, according to provincial officials. Three children herding sheep were critically wounded by another bomb in Kandahar.

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