News Item | 12-12-2022 | 5:42 p.m
On August 15, 2021, the Afghan capital Kabul fell to the Taliban. In the ensuing chaos and panic, hundreds of Afghans were evacuated from Kabul airport. It turned out to be a work of great influence. This applies to deportees, but certainly to the military personnel involved, diplomatic staff and all those who helped people leave the country. Today, 133 of them received the Commemorative Medal for International Work with the hook NEO (Non-Combatant Evacuation Operation) Kabul 2021 at Schowburg Rosenthal.
The Netherlands transported people from Kabul by C-17 transport aircraft and 2 C-130 Hercules. This was done in close collaboration with commandos, marines, a maréchaussée unit of the Special Security Task Force and the Ministry of External Affairs. They were supported from Islamabad.
All seats were removed from the C-130 transporters to accommodate as many people as possible. The evacuees lay shoulder to shoulder on the floor, long straps for belts. State Secretary Christoph van der Maat: “But especially the moments when you faced the desperation of the Afghan refugees will always be remembered.”
In the outer ring, the Taliban used force to control the crowd. “At the same time, you are bombarded with messages from the Netherlands: do you want to take some people to the gate?”, said van der Mat. “It seems so easy. In the Netherlands, we don’t see how serious it really is.
3 Commandos made a breakthrough by finding a gate to the south. One of them was Corporal First Class Simmy Potsema. He died in a shooting in the US this summer. Van der Mat: “Simmy means a lot to the forces, to his comrades and to this mission. You can tell this operation was made for Simmy. We will never forget him.
At the newly discovered gate, the soldiers had a better view and were able to allow the evacuees to approach. Holland Gate is a fact. Chief of the Armed Forces, General Onno Eiselsheim: “In critical situations, the people on the ground know best what is needed to make the operation successful. So you are given freedom of choice. It sometimes led to terrible embarrassments.”
For example, it was agreed with the Taliban that evacuees could also be brought in by bus. Eichelsheim: “But can you suddenly trust the Taliban, your enemy for 20 years? It is not known whether the bus option will be abandoned and Holland Gate will be profitable and the operation will continue. It became one – one. That’s why we were able to free more people.
Afghanistan Evacuation Intent
In the end, in every predicament, the common purpose was decisive. They did this for Afghan evacuees. General Eiselsheim: “They were by our side as we spent the last 20 years doing our jobs, building the country and running the embassy.”
The Secretary of State and CDS expressed their deep respect when they came forward to present the medals. CDS: “You did this together. All the colors are similar and the required features are united. Missionaries and peaceful forces in the Netherlands. You should be incredibly proud of what you have accomplished. When poop hits the fan, you can’t be close to each other anywhere except in a work area. You only really understand when you experience it. You enjoyed it. And how.”
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