Tuesday 21 March 2023

Defence minister does u-turn, resigns over Afghanistan failings

Ank Bijleveld explains her decision. Photo: Bart Maat ANP

Defence minister Ank Bijleveld has also resigned in the wake of Thursday evening’s motions of censure directed at her and foreign affairs minister Sigrid Kaag for their failings in the evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan.

Kaag, who is also D66 leader, resigned immediately after the vote, but Bijleveld initially said she would stay on the job and that her decision was a personal one.

But the decision upset a number of prominent Christian Democrats and on Friday afternoon she too said she will step down.

‘I wanted to continue with the task ahead of me, the men and women in the frontline and the interpreters who are still in Afghanistan,’ she said in a short statement. ‘But my continuation has become a subject for discussion, so I cannot do my work in the proper manner.’

Tom de Bruijn, who was Kaag’s deputy, is taking over the foreign minister role until a permanent replacement has been found – or a new government has been formed. Justice minister Ferd Grapperhaus will take over Bijleveld’s.

Kaag, prime minister Mark Rutte and Hoekstra as leader of the CDA will meet this weekend on neutral ground in an effort to break the cabinet formation deadlock. The talks are being seen as a last ditch effort by chief negotiator Johan Remkes to put together a majority coalition.

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