Dutch gov’t fears it can’t get everyone out of Kabul on time
The Cabinet is "taking it into serious account" that not everyone who qualifies for evacuation will be removed from Afghanistan on time. Hundreds of people still need to be withdrawn. The government may not have the time for this, the Cabinet writes to the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Parliament. "Every hour counts."
Additionally, Dutch soldiers are helping to gather those in the country’s capital of Kabul to ready them for evacuation, and to protect Dutch diplomats at the airport, and Dutch aircraft. Ninety soldiers, including commandos, marines and the Brigade for Special Security Assignments (BSB) are present at the airport. The main task of the military is to protect the Dutch diplomats at the airport, the Dutch aircraft and the evacuees.
The United States has agreed with the Taliban, now ruling in Afghanistan, that the Kabul airport can be used for evacuations until August 31. The Netherlands, together with NATO allies, have consistently argued for this period to be extended, but that option has not emerged.
In practice, the evacuation flights may have to stop earlier, because the Americans themselves also need a few days to get their 6,000 troops safely out of the country. That is why "under increasingly difficult circumstances" people are working with all their might to evacuate as many people as possible.
More than a thousand people have left Kabul on evacuation flights since last week with the Netherlands as their final destination. Of them, 644 have already arrived in the Netherlands. In addition to local embassy staff, these include interpreters and their families, and Dutch nationals who were still in Afghanistan.
The latter group is, incidentally, considerably larger than expected, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledges. It estimated there are still hundreds of Dutch people in Afghanistan, despite years of negative travel advisories and an urgent call to leave at the beginning of this month.
Last week, the Tweede Kamer ordered the Cabinet to evacuate, in addition to interpreters, other Afghans who may be at risk due to their work with the Dutch. Thousands of people have now come forward, including fixers for journalists, human rights activists, lawyers and employees of development organizations.
Some 250 people in this group have been declared as actually running an extra risk because of their work. "These people have been summoned to the Kabul airport, where our people will help them enter for evacuation."
Reporting by ANP