On the day a high-ranking Taliban military commander, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, a close associate of Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, is reported to have been killed in an airstrike this week close to the border with Pakistan, Dutch leading Elsevier’s Magazine named its person of the year, the 1.600 men and women strong Dutch troops contingent in the Afghan province of Uruzgan. The honour was awarded “for forging a mission of war into one of reconstruction”.

This goes against the grain of the national parliament which just concluded the opposite earlier this week. A (former Maoist) Socialist Party M.P. went so far as to term the mission a “dirty war”. The erstwhile fringe party picked up as many as 26 seats in the election of last November and even became a serious player in the formation of the new government, albeit for a moment.

The troops in Uruzgan meanwhile, after having suffered a great many violent incidents initially, due to their tenacious attitude improved the situation to a large extent. A reconstruction shows that by the end of October things started changing for the better. Nevertheless, in two months’ time they had nine near-fatal escapes and suffered two severely wounded, whom were rescued in a show of bravery, writes Elsevier.

The pessimistic view in parliament in The Hague is countered by a number of positive developments on the ground in the Afghan province. There is less violence and U.N. relief workers have returned. The head of the reconstruction team has said there are even talks going on with Taliban leaders through intermediaries. General Berlijn states the troops are regularly confronted with the limits of their command instructions. Orders from regional NATO command in Kandahar are analyzed and tested at least once every two weeks.

Last year’s Elsevier Person of the Year was maverick politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali, former Dutch M.P. for the center-right liberal party VVD and associate of film director Theo van Gogh, who was brutally assassinated last year by a Muslim extremist. Somali born Ms Hirsi Ali is presently a Resident Fellow at the American Enterprise Insitute.

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