The Dutch government has collapsed over disagreements within the governing coalition on extending troop deployments in Afghanistan.
After marathon talks, Christian Democratic Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende announced that the Labour Party was quitting the government.
Mr Balkenende has been considering a Nato request for Dutch forces to stay in Afghanistan beyond 2010.
But Labour, the second-largest coalition party, has opposed the move.
Just under 2,000 Dutch service personnel have been serving in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan since 2006, with 21 killed.
Their deployment has already been extended once.
“ Where there is no trust, it is difficult to work together ”
Jan Peter Balkenende
The troops should have returned home in 2008, but they stayed on because no other Nato nation offered replacements.
The commitment is now due to end in August 2010.
The Dutch parliament voted in October 2009 that it must definitely stop by then, although the government has yet to endorse that vote.
The finance minister and leader of the Labour Party, Wouter Bos, demanded an immediate ruling from Mr Balkenende.
The collapse of the government was announced after a 16-hour cabinet meeting.
The prime minister said there was no common ground between the parties.
"Where there is no trust, it is difficult to work together. There is no good path to allow this cabinet to go further," he said.
The BBC's Geraldine Coughlan in The Hague says an early election is now expected to take place later in the year.
The launch in 2001 of Nato's International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) for Afghanistan was the organisation's first and largest ground operation outside Europe.
Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said six months ago when he began his job that his priority was the war in Afghanistan.
As of June 2009, Isaf had more than 61,000 personnel from 42 different countries including the US, Canada, European countries, Australia, Jordan and New Zealand.
The US provides the bulk of foreign forces in Afghanistan, and President Barack Obama has announced an extra 30,000 American troops for Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has said the next 18 months could prove crucial for the international mission in Afghanistan, after more than eight years of efforts to stabilise the country.
Afghanistan remains a deadly place for foreign forces.
Suicide attacks on Afghan civilians and roadside bomb strikes on international troops are common, with the Taliban strongly resurgent in many areas of the country.
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