Dutch aim to beat Taleban by inviting them round to tea

The Times reports that the Dutch military in Afghanistan are using the Dutch domestic political tradition of ‘polderen’ to beat the Taleban. ‘Polderen’ stands for reaching consensus without conflict and is very popular with Dutch bureaucrats who oppose conflict and taking responsibility for their decisions. But since Pim Fortuyn’s voters revolt in 2001, the word ‘polderen’ got associated with drinking thee without solving real world problems. But one voters uprising does not change Dutch bureaucracy. The bureaucratic irresponsibility runs deep and even the Dutch military is infected by it. Just like in the Netherlands, the more aggressive party seems to benefit from ‘polderen’.

Thus in Afghanistan we also see what happens when prevention of conflict trumps all other moral goals:

The conventional strategy would have been to build a “platoon house” surrounded by sandbags, razor wire and machinegun posts, as the British did in Helmand province.

However, Colonel Vleugels, commander of the Dutch force in neighbouring Uruzgan province, was convinced that that would antagonise the local population. So he built a qala — a traditional Pashtun home with mud walls and a large reception room where guests are greeted in the local fashion with tea, nuts and dried fruit.

It is designed as a base for Dutch soldiers and as a place for local people — including those close to the Taleban — to air grievances and talk politics.

When the highest goal is conflict prevention the military operations are organized like this:

Whereas the British pushed deep into enemy territory in Helmand, only to be surrounded by the Taleban, the Dutch have held back to secure Tarin Kowt and Dihrawud, the two main towns in Uruzgan. They keep their troops on a tight leash and form alliances with tribal leaders.

Most controversially, they are backing Abdul Hakim Munib, the new Governor of Uruzgan, in his efforts to negotiate with the Taleban — something that Nato officially opposes.
“Whenever I find water flowing in the wrong direction, I try to turn it towards ours,” said Mr Munib, 36, a mullah and former Taleban official who is still on the UN Security Council wanted list.

Of course when one stops fighting the enemy before he is routed, not everybody is going to be happy:

Some critics accuse the Dutch of surrendering most of Uruzgan to the Taleban without a fight. “Go 5km from the governor’s house and you’re in Taleban territory,” said Naimatullah, 32, who runs a telephone shop in Tarin Kowt. “The old governor used to fight the Taleban. The new one just talks.”

Read the whole article: Dutch aim to beat Taleban by inviting them round to tea


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