Netherlands to make military contribution to fight against ISIS

The Netherlands is set to take military action against the advance of ISIS and the atrocities it is committing.

The Dutch government has resolved to make a military contribution to the international fight against the group in Iraq. As stated in a joint letter to the House of Representatives from foreign minister Frans Timmermans, defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert and development minister Lilianne Ploumen, the Netherlands’ contribution will focus on significantly weakening the group’s progress and military strength.

The US has estimated that the first phase of the operation will last between 6 and 12 months. As part of this first phase, the Netherlands will make six F-16s available for air strikes on ISIS in Iraqi territory and will also provide training and advice to Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

The combination of training and air support will put Iraqi troops in a better position to combat ISIS more effectively themselves. A maximum of 250 military personnel will be deployed alongside the F-16s and the two reserve aircraft accompanying them, while a maximum of 130 Dutch personnel will be stationed in Iraq with teams training Iraqi and Kurdish forces. The F-16s will operate from an air base outside Iraq, although the exact location is yet to be determined.

During the summer, the Iraqi authorities twice submitted a request to the UN for military assistance in the fight against ISIS. This provides a legal basis for Dutch personnel to be deployed in Iraq.

There is currently no international consensus on a sufficient mandate under international law supporting military intervention in Syria. If ISIS were to be tackled using military means in Iraq alone, this could strengthen the group’s presence in Syria and elsewhere in the region. The objective of the US air offensive over Syria is to prevent this scenario and the ministers note in their letter that the government understands the difficult nature of the situation.

The Dutch contribution is part of a wider strategy – led by the US – involving many countries as partners, including countries from the region itself. This strategy will complement the efforts being made by the Iraqi government to combat ISIS. The Dutch government is now clarifying the Netherlands’ contribution with a view to facilitating the planning process going on in the US. To this end, the Ministry of Defence has sent a team of experts to the US command centre to assist with the strategic planning of the operation.