The Netherlands will end its troop contribution to the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali next year and will send troops to Afghanistan instead, the Dutch defense ministry said.
“The Netherlands will halt its current [military] contribution to the U.N. mission by 1 May 2019,” AFP reported the defense ministry as saying in a statement on Friday, June 15.
The statement added that the ministry will “extend and intensify” its contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, sending 60 more soldiers to bolster the 100 already there, and extending the deployment to 2021.
NL Times reported on Wednesday that the Dutch contribution to the U.N.’s Minusma mission ends on December 31, 2018, but the government intended to stay longer so another country can take over its duties.
There are currently 250 Dutch soldiers at Camp Castor near the city of Gao in eastern Mali.
The Dutch Audit Chamber said on Wednesday that the country “barely managed to get units ready to deploy to Mali” and that peacekeepers “lacked material, had insufficient training and and defective equipment.”
Four Dutch soldiers have died in the mission, two in a 2015 Apache helicopter crash, and two in 2016 when a mortar shell went off unexpectedly during an exercise.
Former defense minister Jeanine Hennis resigned after safety inspectors said the two soldiers killed in 2016 were using ammunition more than a decade old. Hennis, who was not defense minister when the stocks were purchased, said she was “politically responsible.”
Earlier this month, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for Minusma to “reprioritize its action” to focus on political tasks.
In a report to the U.N. Security Council, Guterres said he intended to explore how the mission could broaden its political role in support of a peace process between the government and Tuareg-led rebels. A Minusma review conducted this year found that a 2015 peace agreement “had not resulted in enough meaningful progress on the ground,” Guterres said.
Guterres said that the international force faced a dilemma “between the need to reform and reconstitute the Malian defense and security forces while simultaneously supporting existing forces in addressing the current instability.”
The U.N.’s Minusma peacekeeping force has around 12,000 military and 1,900 police personnel deployed from U.N. partner nations, and is considered the U.N.’s most dangerous.