A group of at least eight interpreters and other people who once worked for the Netherlands in Afghanistan have been evacuated by air from the Afghan capital Kabul to Pakistan. From there they fly to the Netherlands later. Their family is also along, making it about 46 people in total. The State Department confirms that following reports from theCCeit.
It is the first time since the last American troops left Kabul that the Netherlands manages to evacuate former personnel from Afghanistan. There were already people who managed to get to Pakistan by land on their own, but that route is not recommended by Foreign Affairs.
Just yesterday, demissionary Minister Knapen of Foreign Affairs promised in a letter of parliament that he would do his best to get another 2000 Afghan former employees in the Netherlands. Then it was still unclear how.
In consultation with Taliban
The interpreters were summoned to come to Kabul Airport a week ago. The flight was originally scheduled for last Thursday, but it has been postponed three times since then.
In recent weeks, people with Dutch passports and their families have been evacuated to the Netherlands several times through Qatar. That country does not allow people with Afghan passports without a Dutch family to land there either. The State Department had to look for a different route for that group.
That route now seems to be found through Pakistan. The interpreters had to report to Pakistan International Airlines in Kabul in recent days, where they got Pakistani visas stamped in their passports. This happened in consultation with the Taliban, the current rulers in Kabul know which people are leaving the country now.
New passport problematic
This flight is seen as a test case within the Dutch ministries. If the operation succeeds, there may be more flights. That doesn‘t mean it’s now easy to get all 2,000 people still to be evacuated via this route as well. Many of those people don‘t have or an expired passport.
That proved to be a problem in recent days. Although the Netherlands repeatedly reported to interpreters that people with expired passports were also welcome on the plane, it proved difficult in practice to get the right stamps in those expired passports. It was not until just before departure it became clear that this was successful.
That problem will continue to play. Today’s evacuees had at least an expired passport, many others on the Dutch evacuation list do not have a passport at all.
Applying for a new passport is virtually impossible in Afghanistan at the moment. There were long waiting times before the Taliban takeover, after that there were no new passports available for a while. Last Saturday the Taliban started issuing passports again, but reports have been reported that it is not safe to apply for one. Former Afghan Army soldiers would have been pulled out of line and arrested.
The State Department does not say if and when there will be a next flight to evacuate more former employees.