Last night at 10.30 pm, the cabinet sent a letter with the answers to parliamentary questions about the evacuation from the Afghan capital Kabul after the Taliban took power in the country last month.
‘Room already grumpy’
A debate will start this morning with outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte, ministers Sigrid Kaag (Foreign Affairs), Ank Bijleveld (Defence) and State Secretary Ankie Broekers-Knol (Justice and Security) about the chaos that has ensued. “These late answers are already making the House grumpy,” says political reporter Fons Lambie.
The cabinet acknowledges that the evacuation was ‘chaotic’. There were miscommunications and problems. Prior to the takeover of the Taliban, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs simply thought that there would be few Dutch people in Afghanistan. “Only a few were registered,” the cabinet writes.
The Netherlands thought it would have to evacuate ‘250 to 300’ people, but that turned out to be thousands. The evacuation mission therefore became a ‘greater challenge than expected’. 1,897 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan. 370 Afghans were allowed to come here because they worked for, for example, a Dutch NGO or a human rights organization.
More than 23,000 e-mails have been received in recent weeks from people who say they also have the right to come to the Netherlands. The cabinet suspects that there are still more than 23,000 people who want to come here.
“The documentation of the help seekers is often inadequate, and a link with the Netherlands and/or an acute, distressing situation is sometimes not easy to demonstrate”, the cabinet writes about the hundreds of emails that still arrive every day. “They will close the mailbox on Friday,” says Lambie.
‘Probably’ 22 interpreters stuck
There are ‘probably’ 22 interpreters stuck in Afghanistan. In total there were 67 interpreters in the picture. The cabinet is in contact with some of the interpreters in the country. There are also 459 people with a Dutch residence permit in Afghanistan.
The situation in Afghanistan was discussed 35 times in political The Hague, both in cabinet consultations and in the Council of Ministers. Since the beginning of this year, the use of military aircraft has been discussed. They were not ‘ready’ until August 12. Kabul fell on August 15.
Sensitive documents destroyed
The cabinet also agrees that people who called the helpline did not always get hold of someone. There were ‘peak times’ and ‘overload’, which meant that people who called were on hold for a long time.
When the embassy in Kabul was abandoned, all sensitive documents were “destroyed or transferred.” Minister Sigrid Kaag was informed ‘almost immediately’ when staff left the building.