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article imageDutch to shift troop deployment from Mali to Afghanistan

By AFP     Jun 15, 2018 in World

The Netherlands is to stop sending troops to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali and will shift focus to beef up operations in Afghanistan, the defence ministry announced Friday.

"The Netherlands will halt its current (military) contribution to the UN mission by 1 May 2019," the ministry said in a statement issued in The Hague, adding it will "extend and intensify" the mission to Afghanistan.

The announcement comes two days after a highly critical report by the Dutch Audit Chamber -- which looks at government spending -- saying the country "barely managed to get units ready to deploy to Mali".

The report lashed the defence minister, saying Dutch blue helmets "lacked material, had insufficient training and and defective equipment," on the Mali mission.

Dutch troops formed part of the MINUSMA stabilisation mission in the west African nation since April 2014, and at one time numbered as many as 400 backed by four Apache attack helicopters and three Chinook transports.

The Dutch helicopters were withdrawn early last year.

Currently some 250 troops are reportedly stationed alongside French and other forces to fight jihadist insurgents who overran the country's northern territory.

But the Dutch mission has been plagued by a series of mishaps which saw four Dutch military personnel lose their lives.

In 2015 an Apache attack helicopter crashed killing two pilots, while a year later, two soldiers died when a mortar shell unexpectedly went off during a live-fire exercise.

Dutch safety inspectors heavily criticised the deaths of the two men, saying they were using old ammunition stocks bought back in 2006.

Former Dutch defence minister Jeanine Hennis resigned in the wake of the report into the soldiers' deaths, saying although she was not minister at the time of the purchase, she was "politically responsible".

More than 11,000 UN police and military are currently serving in Mali, attempting to bring security to lawless swathes of the vast Sahel nation.

Although jihadists were largely ousted by a French-led military operation in January 2013, extremist groups still pose a threat.

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