Federal government ministers confirmed at a nuclear cabinet meeting Monday evening that military flights will join the mass evacuation from Afghanistan. But first, the airport of the capital, Kabul, must be safe enough before departure.
Prime Minister Alexandre de Croo (Open VLD) and his most important ministers met in the Nuclear Cabinet to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan. There, the extremist Taliban quickly reoccupied the entire country, including the capital, Kabul. Thousands of people fled there, hoping to find a place on a flight to leave the country.
Military cargo pilots
The Prime Minister confirmed what had already been announced earlier today. Belgium will send military planes – one A400M cargo pilot and two C-130 planes – to rescue people from Kabul’s inferno. This concerns Belgians, dual nationals and their Afghan family members, as well as Afghans with their families who have worked with the international coalition in Afghanistan in recent years. In that alliance, Belgium helped keep the pro-Western regime in Kabul against the Taliban after it was ousted from power twenty years ago in the aftermath of 9/11.
It is now up to Secretary of Defense Ludivine Dedonder (PS) to do the operational work for this evacuation. Secretary of State Sophie Villemis has to look at the consular side. This is complicated because not only Belgians are involved, but also Afghans who have a past as a translator, mediator or employee of the international coalition are eligible for a place on an airplane.
Departure time is uncertain
It is not yet certain when exactly the flights will depart. “It will largely determine the conditions on the ground, especially at the Kabul airport,” the prime minister said. “It also depends on the possibilities at the site.”
The airport must first be adequately secured. The US military is working hard on it. Also look at other flights that can’t land there at the moment.
The airport must first be adequately secured. The US military is working hard on it. Also look at other flights that can’t land there at the moment. The Netherlands already sent evacuation flights to Afghanistan on Monday. Immediately, the pilots had to decide that it was impossible to land. The fairways and runways were full of people. In addition, there are concerns that the Taliban may continue to deploy air defenses against aircraft.
In the meantime, Foreign Affairs is busy identifying people who are interested in Belgians in this field. Sophie Wilmès said about a hundred people have contacted the embassy in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad – our country has not been diplomatically present in Afghanistan for years – with the aim of evacuating them.
A procedure has already been established through that embassy to bring the interpreters and Afghan delegates to safety in our country by issuing humanitarian visas and granting them refugee status after the asylum procedure. Before the situation in Afghanistan was completely derailed, there was temporarily one Afghan family that used it and was taken care of in Belgium.
Because the situation has completely changed, the chaos in Afghanistan makes it impossible to apply for an air bridge through Islamabad in a good way. This is why it is essential to consider the best alternatives to get people in need of safety in the best possible way. Cooperation with other countries, the United States, the United Kingdom, and the member states of Europe seems to be the best option. It is scheduled to meet European foreign ministers on Tuesday to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.
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