by Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog
As American troops advance into Afghanistan to combat an expected spring offensive by the Taliban, Dutch troops avoid hostile territories in the region - for the same purpose.
"We're not here to fight the Taliban," a Dutch commander said last week in the New York Times. "We're here to make the Taliban irrelevant."
Rather than hunt the Taliban, the Dutch are luring Afghans away from Taliban influence with projects to improve their living conditions, and a presence to support their security.
The policy does not preclude all fighting. Dutch forces have fought the Taliban directly. But they avoid sweeps or raids that will destroy civilian property, or cause citizen deaths.
The Dutch forces say they have built a network of contacts in Taliban-controlled regions. They have suffered no combat-related fatalities.
As of March 2007, approximately 400 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan. Seven NATO soldiers - -six Canadian and one American - were killed in Afghanistan in a roadside bombing on Easter Day.