Shortly before the start of the evacuations from the Afghan capital, the Dutch embassy in Kabul thought that ‘at most a few dozen Dutch people’ would still be in Afghanistan. In the end, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs received 1,250 requests for help from Dutch passport holders.
This is apparent from a statement of facts that the cabinet has sent to the House of Representatives. Dutch people who were in Afghanistan, especially people of Afghan origin who were visiting relatives, could voluntarily report to the embassy. Nine people did that in June, seven in July and August. Based on that registration and the number of Dutch people who worked for aid organizations in the country, the embassy assumed a small group of Dutch people.
Travelers were warned several times about the deteriorating security situation in the country. This happened on April 28, July 21 and August 5, and it was also advised to leave the country with ‘the existing but limited flights’. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also emphasized that the Dutch embassy in Kabul ‘cannot support or evacuate Dutch nationals in extreme emergencies’.
In the end, during the hastily launched evacuation mission, 708 Dutchmen were evacuated from Kabul via Islamabad in Pakistan to Amsterdam. Also, 371 interpreters and other people who have worked for Dutch or international missions, including their families, were evacuated, as were 15 local EU staff, 30 local UN staff and 19 local NATO staff.
319 Afghans also came to our country who, for example, worked as cooks or security guards for the Netherlands or for Dutch aid organizations, who were also entitled to help through a parliamentary motion. That is only a small part of the total number of people who want to go to the Netherlands based on that motion, according to the factual report.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs received almost 41,000 emails from people who want to come to the Netherlands. An ‘initial inventory’ of those messages would have revealed that 21,500 e-mails ‘appear to be related’ to people who are entitled to asylum. Because one e-mail can be about several people, the total number is ‘considerably larger’ than the number of e-mails, Foreign Affairs writes. The ministry is not yet able to say how many people are involved.
The factual report also shows that in January 2021 the cabinet will do more to get Afghan interpreters out of the country who have helped Dutch military personnel. The evacuation of local Afghan embassy personnel was also discussed for the first time at the end of that month, when the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MIVD) signaled that the advance of the Taliban was ‘inevitable’. Yet the speed of that advance also seems to have taken the MIVD by surprise. On August 12, the service expected that Kabul “could fall into the hands of the Taliban within 90 days”. That happened three days later.
The government seems keen to counter earlier criticism in the report of the facts, namely that too little was done to bring interpreters to safety, that the Dutch embassy team left Kabul ‘like a thief in the night’ and that the evacuation was too slow to proceed. came. When the Netherlands was already working on plans to remove people from the country in April 2021, the cabinet writes, other countries had no or less detailed evacuation plans. The Dutch team also worked ‘as far as is known as the only country on the ground’ 24 hours a day to get as many people as possible inside the gate.
The entrance still had some feet in the ground. At first it was difficult to get people to the airport of Kabul. The original Dutch embassy team moved to the airport after ‘urgent advice’ from the Americans. They had just over an hour to do so. According to the ‘applicable protocols’, the server was included. As a result, desperate Afghans were no longer able to reach the embassy via email.
Once at the airport, the embassy team wanted to ‘try’ to get the local staff and interpreters to the airport. But in doing so, the cabinet writes, it received ‘no support from the US’ and there was not enough capacity to get people into the gate itself ‘in the great chaos that prevails’.
When the cabinet had just decided that it was ‘desirable’ to keep the embassy open – with one employee if necessary – the team boarded an evacuation plane itself. The Americans announced that they could not guarantee the safety of the Dutch and stated that the airport was locked for 48 hours – only extra troops were allowed to land. The commander of the Dutch military who protected the embassy employees also thought it was ‘irresponsible’ to stay longer, according to the cabinet.
Two days later, on August 18, an embassy emergency team landed with additional elite soldiers. They managed to create an entrance to the airport through the Abbey Gate. Many Dutch and Afghans who have a link with our country managed to reach a plane via this ‘ Holland spot ‘.