Ministers warned in advance to send military to help evacuate Afghanistan
Ank Bijleveld, the defense minister, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sigrid Kaag were warned in advance that should evacuate Afghan interpreters who helped the Netherlands as soon as possible. The government put off sending the military as long as possible, according to a reconstruction of the situation by the Volkskrant.
The Cabinet sent military re-enforcements to Afghanistan in April to ensure the safe return of Dutch soldiers from Mazar-i-Sharif after the United States announced they would be pulling their troops from the country. Afghans who helped the Netherlands did not receive the same support in August when the Taliban came into power. "The Ministry of Defense could have taken interpreters with them from Mazar," diplomats said.
Bijleveld said that only in the most extreme scenario would they send military planes to pick up Afghans from Kabul. "If necessary, we can pick up people from one location, the Kabul Airport, but this should only happen in the most extreme situation and not with a military operation in enemy territory. That is really not possible," Bijleveld told the Tweede Kamer in early June.
From within the Ministry of Defense, there were suggestions to send a military team to Afghanistan in July, the newspaper reported.. "No, we will not be doing that, otherwise it becomes a military operation," Bijleveld said.
At the beginning of August, Dutch ambassador Cees Roels said his superiors in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs "totally lacked a feeling of urgency and responsibility." He warned several times that the embassy could possibly have to close soon.
"There were rumors of a total disconnect between the situation in Kabul and in The Hague," an official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said, according to the Volkskrant.
Bijleveld became the defense minister at the start of the third Cabinet of Mark Rutte in 2017. Kaag switched jobs to become foreign affairs minister in May 2021.
The Taliban took control of Kabul on August 12, 2021. That same day Kaag and Bijleveld decided to send a charter to evacuate interpreters and other local Afghan staff. On August 18, the first Dutch militarymembers arrived in Kabul to help with evacuations.
There are still around 2,000 people at risk of being targeted by the Taliban because they helped the Netherlands, the Volkskrant said. Over 21,500 people applied for asylum in the Netherlands after the Taliban came into power.