US criticises Dutch troops in Afghanistan

Dutch defence minister Eimert van Middelkoop met the US ambassador to the Netherlands on Wednesday to discuss official criticism of Dutch, Australian and Canadian troops in southern Afghanistan, news agency ANP reports.

The agency says Middelkoop called ambassador Roland E. Arnall ‘to account’ for an interview given by US defence secretary Robert Gates in the Los Angeles Times.

In the interview Gates said he believed Nato forces currently deployed in southern Afghanistan do not know how to combat a guerrilla insurgency, a deficiency that could be contributing to the rising violence in the fight against the Taliban.

‘I’m worried we’re deploying [military advisors] that are not properly trained and I’m worried we have some military forces that don’t know how to do counterinsurgency operations,’ Gates said in the interview.

The criticism comes just days after two Dutch and two Afghan soldiers were killed in what appears to be a friendly fire incident in the southern province of Uruzgan.

The Netherlands has some 1,650 soldiers in Afghanistan and has just agreed to stay in the region until 2010.

Commander Nico Geerts of the Uruzgan task force said on Wednesday it is still not clear how the soldiers lost their lives. Speaking by telephone to Radio 1, Geerts denied a shortage of radios could have contributed to the confused situation. Military union ACOM has blamed a shortage in transmitters for the deaths.