The Netherlands was totally unprepared for the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan, the fall of Kabul and the evacuation of Dutch nationals and support staff, according to a special investigation into events in August 2021.
The damning report says the foreign affairs and defence ministries were far too late in taking action. Instead, there was too much “wishful thinking” within the cabinet and a “collective failure” to predict what might happen, even though the Dutch embassy in Kabul had in December 2020 called for an evacuation plan.
The report, under the leadership of former senior civil servant Maarten Ruys goes into detail about how the Netherlands approached the withdrawal of military personnel after 20 years.
Kabul fell on August 15 and nearly 1,000 Dutch nationals, support staff and locals who had worked for the Netherlands embassy and armed forces had to be evacuated.
But the Dutch underestimated how many people needed to be brought out and the evacuation itself was chaotic, the report said.
Foreign affairs minister Sigrid Kaag and defence minister Ank Bijleveld were singled out for particular criticism and failing to work together and Kaag for failing to take the lead in the overall project.
In particular, no one took responsibility for the interpreters who had worked for the Dutch and who had the right to be evacuated. Nor was enough support provided to the Dutch embassy on the ground, the report said.
After the initial evacuation it took months before other interpreters and support staff could leave the country, which had become extremely dangerous for them, the report said.
Learning from mistakes
Current foreign affairs minister Hanke Bruins Slot said the cabinet “recognized and accepted” the report’s conclusions. “Mistakes are made during crises, but the biggest mistake is not to learn from,” she said.
The government had now brought in new strategies to deal with similar situations, she said. The minister will send a detailed reaction to parliament in the coming weeks.
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