Photo above: Chief of Defence General Tom Middendorp

'In 2009 I was Commander of Task Force Uruzgan. Two years previously there had been heavy fighting for control of Chora, a district in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province. For the Netherlands it was the largest combat operation in decades', says Chief of Defence General Tom Middendorp.

'In my many international contacts, I’m seeing how successful the Netherlands has been in coordinating its civil and military efforts, and uniting them in a single approach.'

Doing nothing is not an option

'The moral of this story is tied to our “3D approach”. The Ds stand for Diplomacy, Development and Defence. The Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs use this approach as a framework for shaping our international security strategy. Before we decide to deploy Dutch forces to a conflict area, we conduct an analysis of various factors in that region. For instance, the causes of military conflicts can often be found in problems or tensions relating to an entirely different issue, like we saw in Afghanistan. The 3D approach allows us to get to grips with questions like: How are extremists able to gain a foothold here? What are the causes of tensions in this country? The approach works and helps the Netherlands do its part in these situations. As it should. Doing nothing is not an option.'


'The conflicts in today’s world are complex. If we want to resolve them, we’ll have to work together. We can only be effective if our various forms of engagement – military, diplomatic, commercial, development-related and law enforcement – are coordinated. That’s why the Ministry of Defence, and I as Chief of Defence, are working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. That cooperation produces a lot of synergy. We’ve come to know and respect each other, and as a result we take a more holistic view when it comes to implementing our international security policy. We’re not working in parallel to each other, but with and for each other. It means we’re able to contact each other easily when needed, as was the case after the MH-17 disaster, for instance.'


'In my many international contacts, I’m seeing how successful the Netherlands has been in coordinating its civil and military efforts, and uniting them in a single approach. An example of that approach is the weekly meetings of the Missions and Operations Steering Committee, which I attend. The committee comprises senior civil servants from the Ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, General Affairs and Security & Justice.'

'I don’t know many countries where the senior advisers of the relevant ministries meet on a weekly basis. We are regularly in touch with each other, both in The Hague and at the embassies all over the world. That has enabled us to apply the 3D approach in several mission areas. It’s a great achievement, which we must cherish and develop as we move forward.'

International peace and security

The Netherlands helps prevent or end wars and contributes to strengthening the international rule of law, for instance by participating in peace missions helping reconstruction efforts in post-conflict countries. The Netherlands is also host nation to the International Criminal Court and the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.

In its foreign policy, the Netherlands focuses specifically on addressing problems that often precede the outbreak of war. It uses the 3D approach (Diplomacy, Development, Defence): a shared vision of the Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on efforts to foster security and stability in fragile states and conflict areas. Also known as the comprehensive approach, it focuses mainly on prevention and stabilisation in fragile regions and countries where our national interests are at stake. Prosperity, peace and security in the Netherlands depend on prosperity, peace and security in other countries, even on the other side of the world. That is why it is so important for us to work together. Diplomats from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs work with organisations like the EU, the UN and NATO to create a safer and more just world. They tackle challenges in areas such as the environment, food, drinking water and human rights. After all, what happens elsewhere in the world can have an immediate effect on our country.

Diplomatic, humanitarian and military resources

Joep Wijnands, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was involved in this mission in 2009, as civil representative to Task Force Uruzgan in Afghanistan.

Joep says:'The 3D approach isn’t a Dutch invention, but we’ve used it extensively, for instance in Afghanistan, where it proved itself more than just an interesting theory. In some conflicts situations, military deployment alone is not a sustainable solution. So in every situation we seek to achieve a mix of diplomatic, humanitarian and military resources and development cooperation. There can be no security without development, and vice versa.'

'The Taliban insurgence in Afghanistan is not just a military problem: there are social and political issues at play too. That is why the Netherlands worked on establishing the rule of law, the basis of any functioning state.'

'An example of our engagement in this area is the police training courses conducted by the Defence organisation in Kunduz, as part of our efforts to strengthen the judicial apparatus. We supported training and infrastructure projects for lawyers and judges. This encourages people to report crimes to the police and make use of trained lawyers, and it ensures they will face a fair judge in court. When people have the opportunity to resolve disputes in this way, they won’t want to fight a war; they’re not going to put their lives at risk.'