Not only the French, but also the British, started to pick up Afghan interpreters and staff in silence earlier this year. As early as May 17, the British repatriation service wrote to interpreters: “Make sure you and the family members invited to travel with you are ready.” The British have now brought about two thousand people to the UK.
They‘ve been working with the UN for months to transport endangered interpreters and their families to Kabul from all parts of Afghanistan, according to the mail sent. “We ask you to be ready in two to four weeks.”
Interpreters who have worked with the Netherlands have never been sent such an urgent mail, military sources confirm. “We’ve been breaking through the bureaucracy of Defence and Foreign Affairs for months,” said Anne-Marie Snels, former president of the military union AFMP. “We had to register each interpreter and his family individually to Defense, after which it remained silent for long periods of time. No evacuation plan or crisis playbook has been created at all.”
Stuck in town
The British raise about a thousand people every day in Kabul. They succeed, among other things, by arranging transportation from the city to the airport. That transport is the major problem for the Dutch operation in Kabul. Numerous Dutch people are trapped in the city and can or dare not to travel to the airport because the Taliban controls the access road. Moreover, the US guards of the airport hardly allow anyone to admit.
The Netherlands has pulled at least 40 interpreters and family members from Afghanistan in recent months. The British and French also brought other Afghans to their country, such as chefs and drivers. In the Netherlands, this has been a point of discussion between the Chamber and Cabinet until this week. When asked whether the Netherlands did not start preparing too late, Minister Kaag replied this afternoon that a ‘acceleration operation’ has been carried out in recent months: “I would not look forward to a simple comparison”.
Criticism in neighbouring countries too
In Germany and Belgium, too, there is criticism that evacuations from Afghanistan are chaotic. The operation started late in Belgium.
Germany has been able to evacuate 1600 people so far. Chancellor Merkel says she wants to raise a total of 10,000 people. It mainly concerns Afghans who have helped the military and the media, but also those who have made themselves strong for non-profits.
Italy has announced that it wants to pick up 2500 Afghans in addition to its own citizens. The country has deployed 1500 soldiers for the evacuations.