This article examines the so-called ‘Dutch approach’ to conducting stabilisation operations. The term is mostly used in relation to the mission carried out by the Netherlands armed forces in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province from 2006 to 2010, but actually originates in the Iraqi province of Al Muthanna. Here, a 1350-strong battle group operated from July 2003 until March 2005 as part of the US-led coalition, after which the Dutch forces left Iraq relatively unscathed and self-confident of their ability in dealing with this type of conflict. On the basis of archival research and interviews, the authors unravel the ‘Dutch approach’ in southern Iraq by tracing its roots and by examining the Dutch operation in the context of the American and British experiences. They argue that despite predominantly effective tactical reflexes and an overall adequately broad interpretation by battle group commanders of a too narrowly defined political mandate, stability in Al Muthanna was conditions-driven rather than the result of a unique and effective approach. The term ‘Dutch approach’ turned out to be a convenient fabrication which, after the relatively successful mission in Al Muthanna, became increasingly politicised in the run-up to a dangerous new operation in southern Afghanistan.