Ministers face motion of censure over Afghanistan evacuations
Ministers Sigrid Kaag of Foreign Affairs and Ank Bijleveld of Defense faced fierce criticism from opposition parties in parliament in a debate about the evacuation of people from Afghanistan after the country fell to the Taliban. During the debate, that ran well into the early hours of Thursday morning, all the opposition parties signed motions of censure against the two Ministers. The motions will be voted on on Thursday afternoon, NU.nl reports.
"No more smokescreens but accountability. And what did we get? Blockades, references to later evaluations, pointing the finger to others," PvdA parliamentarian Kati Piri said about Kaag's actions during the evacuations and response to parliamentary questions about it. She called Kaag's answers "completely unsatisfactory", when filing the motion of censure.
According to the opposition parties, "despite repeated warnings from the staff themselves", Kaag "acted too frivolously and too late" in helping the local staff members of the Dutch embassy in Kabul. As a result, they are stuck in Afghanistan and facing "serious danger".
Bijleveld was accused of not executing motions from the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament. "That is a mortal sin, with disastrous consequences for the interpreters and other staff who worked for the Netherlands," Piri said. 22 interpreters who worked for the Dutch Armed Forces and their families were left behind in Afghanistan, despite the Kamer insisting that the cabinet "bring all Afghan interpreters to safety before the end of the Dutch military presence". That clearly didn't happen.
According to the opposition parties, Bijleveld did not take the interpreters and their families into account in her evacuation plans, so she also received a motion of censure.
The opposition parties do not have a parliamentary majority, so whether these motions will pass remain to be seen. But even if they don't, the motions will still cause considerable political damage to the Ministers in question given that they were supported by the entire opposition.
Both Kaag and Prime Minister Mark Rutte expressed regret for how the evacuations went. Rutte said that he "deeply regretted" that it was not possible to get everyone who worked for the Dutch mission out of Afghanistan. "I think that's really terrible," he said.
Kaag admitted that mistakes were made, because the cabinet worked on five "wrong assumptions". Afghanistan fell to the Taliban much faster than expected, the capital of Kabul where the Dutch embassy is located did not last as long as expected, the Afghan armed forces were weaker than expected, the risks at the airport in Kabul were underestimated, and the Netherlands was too dependent on the United States. "A bitter observation," she said.