Dutch government falls over Afghanistan troop dispute

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
February 20, 2010 21:24

 
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A furious dispute over the war in Afghanistan brought down the Dutch government Saturday, bitterly divided on whether its forces should stay or go as NATO deepens its engagement against the Taliban.

After a contentious 16-hour cabinet meeting, a key partner walked out of Jan Peter Balkenende's coalition, accusing the prime minister of reneging on a pledge to withdraw 1,600 troops this year from Uruzgan province, where 21 Dutchmen have died.

The collapse of the center-right government was the result of discontent with policies that made the Netherlands a loyal ally of the United States in Afghanistan and previously in Iraq, and was a sign of the difficulty US President Barack Obama faces in maintaining the international contingent in the Afghan battlefield at full strength.

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