Military aircraft returns from Afghanistan without any Dutch
The Netherlands' failed evacuation mission
Over the weekend, the government confirmed it was organising the evacuation of Dutch people based in Kabul as well as interpreters who are known to have worked with the Netherlands in the past. However, so far, the evacuation has not gone to plan.
The first plane departed from Hungary on Monday on behalf of all NATO nations, but failed to land in Kabul. A second plane sent by the Netherlands, Norway and Finland landed in Kabul on Tuesday, but took off with only 40 passengers - none of which are believed to have been Dutch or Afghan.
Another evacuation attempt will take place on Wednesday, as two Dutch military aircraft departed from the airbase in Eindhoven on Tuesday morning. The first evacuations are already reported to have taken place, and a third plane departs from Eindhoven on Wednesday.
Chaotic scenes at Kabul airport
It is unclear why the plane was not able to retrieve any Dutch nationals. It’s rumoured that many Dutch struggled to reach the airport on Tuesday, and a spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence said that the public’s ability to reach the airport on time was greatly impacted by the “circumstances on site.”
Sigrid Kaag, the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs, also cited the “chaos” at Kabul airport as the reason for the failed evacuation attempt, arguing that the US military - who currently have control of the airport - should allow for more time for boarding: “There was a half-hour slot to get people on the tarmac. A lot of people were there and stood at the gate of the airport. Hopefully tomorrow there will be an improvement of the situation."
The Minister for Defence, Ank Bijleveld, estimates that the Netherlands still has to retrieve dozens of interpreters and their families from Afghanistan, amounting to at least 300 people. According to the cabinet, there are still nine Dutch people in Afghanistan, and while Dutch embassy staff has already been evacuated by the US military, Afghan embassy staff remain in Kabul and are expected to be evacuated to the Netherlands.
Kaag: Dutch government misjudged the situation in Afghanistan
The cabinet - and Kaag in particular - have faced significant criticism from the House of Representatives (Tweede Kamer) for the failure to manage the situation and evacuate Dutch citizens before the Taliban seized control of Kabul. “Too late, too little was done. Nobody felt responsible and there was no urgency,” Kati Piri, MP for the Dutch Labour Party (PvdA) said.
On Tuesday, Kaag admitted to a failure amongst Dutch authorities, who were too “naive” about the situation. “We did not see it coming, we misjudged the situation,” Kaag said. “There are many lessons to be learned.”
The House is calling for the Netherlands to evacuate as many people as possible, including Afghan nationals who worked at the embassy or who cooperated with Dutch journalists. Kaag has said she is assessing the situation on a case by case basis, and will “give priority to the most distressing cases.”