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Netherlands begins Afghan troop withdrawal

Aug. 1, 2010 at 9:50 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 1 (UPI) -- The Netherlands Sunday said it was formally beginning its withdrawal from Afghanistan and would have all of its soldiers home by September.

A change-of-command ceremony took place at the Dutch base in the central province of Uruzgan, an area noted for its active Taliban presence and a large level of opium production, Radio France Internationale, RFI, reported.

The withdrawal was precipitated by a political crisis in the Netherlands in which the government collapsed in February.

The Dutch embassy in Afghanistan said its 1,950 soldiers followed a so-called "3D" strategy of defense, development and diplomacy in Uruzgan. The number of non-governmental organizations assisting the province's population grew from six to 50 while the Dutch were in charge.

The Dutch will be replaced in the coming weeks by a U.S.-led force that includes troops from Australia, Slovakia and Singapore. The Dutch equipment in Afghanistan, including four F-16 fighters will be back in Europe by the end of the year.

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