Dutch defense minister proposes cutting number of tanks, F-16s

July 4th, 2007  

Topic: Dutch defense minister proposes cutting number of tanks, F-16s

Dutch defense minister proposes cutting number of tanks, F-16s

The Associated Press
Monday, July 2, 2007

THE HAGUE, Netherlands: The Dutch defense minister announced Monday the government plans to reduce the number of its tanks and F-16 fighter jets as part of a package of spending cuts.
The cuts, which must be approved by lawmakers, come as Dutch armed forces are running up huge bills in Afghanistan, where 2,000 troops are involved in a reconstruction operation in the southern province of Uruzgan.
The government will debate with lawmakers in coming months on whether to extend the two-year mission, which is scheduled to end in August 2008.
Defense Minister Eimert van Middelkoop said last week the government is leaning towards extending the mission as part of the NATO security operation, but that drew sharp criticism from lawmakers who must approve any extension.
The proposed cuts aim to "keep the (defense) organization affordable," Van Middelkoop said in a letter to lawmakers.
Key cuts announced Monday include reducing the number of Leopard II tanks from 88 to 60, cutting the fleet of F-16s from 90 to 72 and slashing the number of motorized artillery guns from 36 to 24.
The cuts will not affect Dutch involvement in the U.S.-led development of new Joint Strike Fighter jets, Defense Ministry spokesman Maurice Piek said. While the Dutch are involved in development of the jets, the government has so far only committed to buy two test planes and will not make a decision on buying more until 2010.
"We believe ... we can responsibly reduce the numbers of some main weapons systems without damaging the expeditionary strength of the military," Van Middelkoop said in his letter to parliament.
At the same time, Van Middelkoop said he wants to beef up security of troops taking part in international missions, particularly against so-called improvised explosive devices — one of the weapons of choice of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
A Dutch soldier was killed and three injured last month in a suicide car bomb attack in Afghanistan.
Lawmakers are expected to debate the proposed cuts after their summer recess, which starts later this month.
Edward Lugthart of the military labor union AFMP accused the government of "stripping the defense force."
"You can't just keep amputating bits. At some stage, it's got to stop," Lugthart said.
He said unions would work to ensure the minister kept a pledge not to fire military personnel to reduce the defense force's 68,000 work force.


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