Netherlands to intensify action against ISIS in Syria and Iraq

The Netherlands is stepping up its contribution to the international campaign against ISIS. The cabinet has decided to send a letter to the House of Representatives, setting out a series of military, political and humanitarian measures. ‘We’re convinced that only an integrated approach can restore stability to Iraq and Syria,’ said foreign minister Bert Koenders. ‘We will pursue this goal with all due care and precision.’

Military efforts

To make the fight against ISIS in Iraq more effective, the government has decided to carry out targeted airstrikes against ISIS in eastern Syria too. ‘This more flexible approach will bolster the coalition’s efforts,’ said defence minister Jeanine Hennis. ‘The progress made in Iraq cannot be consolidated if ISIS retains its ability to send reinforcements to Iraq and inflict casualties there from its bases in eastern Syria. Hitting its supply lines in Syria is therefore essential.’

The four Dutch F-16s currently deployed over Iraq will operate over this larger area until the end of June.

In addition, the Netherlands is looking at the possibility of providing more material support for Iraqi forces, including the Peshmerga. It is also considering providing more training for these ground troops in the fight against ISIS.

The Netherlands is making more money available to provide moderate armed Syrian opposition groups with civilian resources and medical support. It will also make an extra contribution to repairing damaged hospitals, schools and other infrastructure. This support will help stabilise recaptured areas.

Political efforts

The international community, including the Netherlands, is trying to find a political solution to the civil war in Syria. The government believes that definite progress has been made in recent months, but the situation remains fragile.

To promote the political process, the Netherlands will continue to assist the Syrian opposition during the talks on the country’s future and will step up its funding for the team led by UN envoy Staffan de Mistura. The Netherlands will also give advice and financial support to Syrian women’s organisations to strengthen their involvement in the political process.

The government still believes that President Assad will have to step down before a lasting solution to the conflict can be found. It also believes that those guilty of war crimes in Syria must be brought to justice.

Humanitarian efforts

This year, the Netherlands is allocating €75 million to alleviate humanitarian suffering resulting from the Syrian crisis. That is €25 million more than originally planned. The money will be used, among other things, to provide assistance in areas that are still under siege by the Assad regime and other groups. Some of the money will be given to the Red Cross in Syria and spent on food aid, drinking water, medicines and winter supplies.

International coalition

The Netherlands has been contributing to the international campaign against ISIS since October 2014. The decision to participate was triggered by ISIS’s rapid advances in Iraq, its gross human rights violations and the direct threat it poses to Europe.