Dutch military planes fly out to Kabul to begin repatriation mission
The Netherlands will attempt to remove hundreds of people from Afghanistan in the next few days after the Taliban seized power in Kabul.
President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on Sunday evening as Taliban troops entered the presidential palace and western countries, including the United States, abandoned their embassies.
At least five people were killed in chaotic scenes at Kabul airport as crowds of Afghans filled the runway and tried to climb on board moving planes in a desperate attempt to flee the country. US troops fired warning shots and deployed helicopters to try to clear the tarmac, after taking over operational control of the airport.
Caretaker prime minister Mark Rutte said the Netherlands was working to repatriate embassy staff and safeguard Afghan support workers, such as interpreters. Some Dutch citizens earlier flew out of Kabul on board a Ukrainian plane along with Croatian, Belarusian and Afghan nationals, Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
‘[The situation in] Afghanistan is highly unpredictable and very concerning,’ Rutte said. ‘We are doing all we can to get embassy staff, interpreters and others who deserve our protection out of there, but it is extremely complicated.’
Can’t believe my eyes. Men holding lower part of the US aircraft moments before it took off from #Kabul airport. pic.twitter.com/bT97WrNa12
— Sudhir Chaudhary (@sudhirchaudhary) August 16, 2021
Dutch aid worker Louis Marijnissen told NOS that the speed of the Taliban offensive had taken people in Kabul by surprise. ‘So far people have been following the orders of the leaders and Taliban fighters don’t seem to be taking revenge on the population,’ said Marijnissen, who works for Johanniter International Assistance.
Marijnissen said he was hoping to leave on a Dutch evacuation flight, but was unsure if he would be able to get to the airport, a mile from his home. ‘We don’t know how the Taliban fighters [at the checkpoints] will react,’ he said.
The first Dutch military aircraft left for Kabul on Monday morning, but it was unclear when they would be able to land because of the situation on the ground.
Another Dutch aid worker, Martine Langerak, managed to leave Kabul on a British flight on Sunday night through her organisation Afghanaid. Planes were able to take off and land on the military runway, she said. ‘But on the other side it’s complete chaos. Lots of people are trying to leave the country, but there is no control at the airport.’
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