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Soldiers may attend Afghanistan debate after all

15 January 2009 – Soldiers have been told not to attend a debate on the Dutch role in Uruzgan, taking place next Monday in Amsterdam. However, the request was based on a misunderstanding and has been revoked, a Ministry of Defence spokesperson told Reformatorisch Dagblad.

According to the spokesperson, the department had received indications that a number of people had been invited to talk in a personal capacity. “We have only pointed out the political sensitivity of the issue to the army top”. An employee ‘over enthusiastically’ translated this into a request to ban soldiers from attending the debate.

Chairman Wim van den Burg of military trade union AFMP had already said that such a ban would be in contradiction with media guidelines drawn up two years ago. He said he could not imagine commander in chief Peter van Uhm having asked commanders to do this.

The debate, organised by debate centre de Rode Hoed and newspaper NRC Handelsblad, will focus on Barack Obama’s plan to send more troops to Afghanistan and on how the Netherlands should respond. Speakers include MPs Femke Halsema (GroenLinks) and Hans van Baalen (VVD).

Photo Ministry of Defence


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