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Dutch troops leave southern Afghanistan

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • NEW: ISAF-led multinational effort took over Uruzgan mission and hosted ceremony
  • NEW: Mullah Dawood, Taliban insurgent leader, was killed by Afghan and Australian troops
  • Dutch will only have 60 military personnel in Afghanistan at the end of this year, none in combat
  • Pullout ends 4-year commitment for the Netherlands

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- More details about the Dutch withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan emerged on Monday.

The Netherlands became the first NATO ally to pull combat troops out of Afghanistan on Sunday as it handed over its mission in southern Afghanistan's Uruzgan province to U.S. and Australian forces.

At the end of this year the Netherlands will have only 60 military personnel in Afghanistan, none in combat, Dutch Ministry of Defense spokeswoman Marloes Visser told CNN on Monday.

At the peak of their commitment, the Dutch had nearly 2,000 troops in Afghanistan. The bulk of that number, 1,500 personnel, were in Uruzgan, with 400 and 100 in Kandahar and Kabul, respectively.

Some staff units remain in Afghanistan, according to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, but the Air Task Force in Kandahar will pull out in December, emptying the country of Dutch troops. The remaining 60 personnel will work in the international headquarters in Kabul and Kandahar, Visser said.

The International Security Assistance Force-led multinational effort took over the Uruzgan mission Sunday. Combined Team-Uruzgan Commander, Colonel Jim Creighton, led a ceremony attended by acting governor for Uruzgan, Khodai Rahim Kahn, as well as ISAF and Afghan National Army personnel, according to an Australian Defence media release.

"The expansion of roads and bridges, the effectiveness of the Afghan National Security Forces, and enhanced security are examples of the improvements made by the hard work and efforts of Dutch and Australian personnel working with the Uruzgan leaders and people," Creighton, who is from the United States, said.

More U.S. troops will have to enter the area to fill the void, he said.

"I am looking forward to building on the exceptional work that the Dutch and Australians have undertaken so far in Uruzgan." Creighton said. Combined Team-Uruzgan includes around 1,800 US, Australian, Singaporean, Slovakian, New Zealand, and French personnel.

A 700-person task force will redeploy Dutch forces in Uruzgan Province back home, Visser said.

"The past four years brought the population of Uruzgan great improvements," the Defense Ministry said in a statement Sunday. "Regrettably, the Netherlands is saddened by its 24 war casualties and 140 wounded."

The Dutch government already had extended its mission by two years. NATO requested another extension as the United States and its allies beefed up forces at the end of 2009, but opposition to the proposal brought down Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's ruling coalition in February.

U.S. and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001 in retaliation for the al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington that September. Allied and local forces quickly toppled the Taliban, the Islamic militia that ruled most of Afghanistan and allowed al Qaeda to operate within its territory.

But top Taliban and al Qaeda leaders escaped the invasion, and Taliban fighters regrouped along the rugged border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The group is now battling both coalition forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan's government.

Soldiers from the Afghan National Security Forces and Australian Special Forces killed Mullah Dawood, a Taliban insurgent leader in central Uruzgan, on July 14, according to an Australian Defence media release published Monday.

CNN's Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.