Commander Van Griensven leads reconstruction mission in Uruzgan

Koen (10) and Tim (8) are very proud of their father, Colonel Hans van Griensven. “In a restaurant they asked the waitress if she knew who I was”, the Colonel smiles. The commander of the Dutch and Australian troops in Uruzgan, together 1750 men, has just returned from a short holiday in the Netherlands. “I can switch quickly, it is fantastic to be home again. When I was playing football with my boys on the first day of my holiday, I could hardly imagine that I had spent three months in Uruzgan. The other happens in such a period of everything that you are not directly involved with. I prefer to be at the helm myself”.

The Dutchman is responsible for the reconstruction of the province of Uruzgan. He is progressing well according to him. “Nine months ago we started with nothing, we knew little about the local population, there was no camp. If you see what influence we have on safety, governance and people, we have achieved a great deal. Everyone knew that it would be a difficult mission. Afghanistan is a complex country that has had 30 years of war behind it. Our presence requires patience and perseverance”.

Criticism of Australian and American media that the Dutch approach is too soft, he does not share. “All countries that help with building Afghanistan have the same goal: we want to make this country safe. Only in the approach there are accent differences. We not only focus on disabling the Taliban, but also support the government and help the population with hundreds of development projects. You can call that soft, I prefer to call it constructive”.

In the Dutch approach, Afghan culture is taken into account. Van Griensven: “Our own reference is the biggest problem. The solutions we propose must fit in the Afghan style. Problems are never directly raised and the Afghans prefer to give an honest answer to questions from respect. First tea is drunk and small talk. That takes time and requires a lot of patience”.

To bring the mission to a success is the main goal. “I make days from 5 am to 6 pm to keep everything running. Fortunately, we have good and experienced employees because the success of the mission depends on the people. The Netherlands proves that it has an excellent army and can be proud of these people because we work here in the Champions League of the world”.

(c) Bart Coolen 2007
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