The Netherlands will not send heavy weapons or ground troops to Iraq’s Kurdish fighters. In their fight against IS, the Kurdish troops will at most receive bulletproof vests or other light military material from The Netherlands, De Volkskrant reports.
According to the paper, the Cabinet will come with an announcement about this later this week. The majority of Parliament is behind this stance for the Dutch government, sources in The Hague tell the paper.
“I wouldn’t know which heavy weapons The Netherlands could supply, because we have already sold a heap of stuff”, says Jean Debie, president of the military labor union VBM.
“To my knowledge, there is no weapons cache where we have a whole stock of hand weapons or munition, that would be suitable for the Kurds” Major General Kees Homan from Clingendael institute says.
Specialists say that the weapons currently available to the Dutch to give to the Kurds would not be applicable. Heavy artillery such as howitzers and vehicles such as the CV90 require at least six months of training before they can be properly used. This is the reason that the British sent only older Soviet-era weapons to the Kurds until last week, because they are already familiar with these.
De Volkskrant writes that the Kurds, and their Peshmerga army seem the only salvation left for Iraq and the struggle against IS. France, Italy and the Czech Republic are already sent weapons, and Great-Britain is doing so since Monday.
The Netherlands’ possible armament of the Kurds has been under discussion since last Thursday. The main issue is what is available, and what could actually be useful to the fighter there. “Bullet-proof vests, night vision binoculars, that kind of stuff we do have”, says union president Debie. Transport planes are also possible. On monday, relief goods in the vein of blankets, food and water, were sent to the Kurdish capital Arbil from The Netherlands.
Foreign Affairs minister Timmermans is now looking at further options. The Cabinet has no official plans yet for military involvement. Defense specialist Homan believes that The Netherlands should not fall behind, however, “if you look at how other countries undertake action.”
Governing party VVD believes the time for waiting is done. “The Netherlands must wait no longer, but actively offer military aid”, MP Mark Verheijen says. According to De Volkskrant, Verheijen believes that The Netherlands has enough weapons and munition to share.
The PvdA has been for the plan to arm the Kurds since last week. This does pertain to non-deadly military material such as bullet-proof vests, says MP Michiel Servaes. The paper writes that opposition parties SP, PVV, CDA and SGP are also pleading to send weapons.
According to De Volkskrant, the chance that Dutch soldiers will appear on the frontline of the struggle is nil. Defense specialist Homan says “nobody is waiting for a repeat of a long-term adventure, like the previous war in Iraq or Afghanistan.”