Sunday, 26 September, 2021

‘Terrible news’ as Dutch halt Kabul evacuation flights

THE HAGUE: The Dutch are halting evacuation flights from Kabul on Thursday in a “terrible” development that will leave some people behind in Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, Prime Minister Mark Rutte said, reports AFP.

Rutte said US forces had ordered the Dutch to leave Kabul airport ahead of the withdrawal of American troops on August 31, adding that the security situation had badly deteriorated.

“The Americans have told us to finish our operations. It’s terrible news,” Rutte told NOS television. “The fact is, and it’s bad news, that we can’t take Dutch people and their families, or other people, for the moment.”

The Netherlands had evacuated 1,500 people—both Dutch nationals and eligible Afghans—since Kabul fell to the Taliban, with a further 118 safely arriving on a bus at the airport overnight.

The number of Dutch people left behind in Afghanistan was “not very clear” yet, he said.

“The situation at the airport has badly deteriorated in the last few hours because of the terrorist threat. People are terrified,” he added.

The Dutch were in contact with France and Belgium, which have also announced halts to evacuations, and Britain and Germany to see what else could be done, he said.

The Dutch government had earlier announced that it would “in all probability run the last flights later today” from Kabul.

“This is a painful moment because it means that despite all the great efforts of the recent period, people who are eligible for evacuation to the Netherlands will be left behind,” Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag and Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld said in a letter to parliament.

The Dutch embassy and 90-strong military team at Kabul airport would also fly out on the last planes on Thursday, it said.

One C-130 Hercules would remain in the region in case of emergencies.

The Dutch said the US order to leave the airport ahead of August 31 was because “for a few days before that, large numbers of American soldiers and equipment have to fly out.”