Apart from the list of the 273 interpreter passes issued in Uruzgan between 2006 and 2010, the Defense has no trace of former personnel during its 19 years of presence in Afghanistan. Now that these people are in principle subject to the interpreter regime, this makes their evacuation more difficult.
However, since the House of Representatives passed the Belhaj motion last week, the Defense has opened a hotline. The military and veterans are called upon to present poignant cases of people who are now in danger because of their work for the Netherlands. “To assess whether someone has worked for us, a service contract helps, but it’s not necessary,” a spokesperson said. Photos or identity documents of a (former) soldier are also accepted.
The Defense Ministry now says it is investigating “whether there have been contract forms more comparable than with interpreter passes.” According to the Ministry of Defense, most of the local employees were under contract from other countries or institutions (such as NATO) with which the Netherlands collaborated, or subcontractors.
“A precious time lost”
MP Kati Piri (PvdA) describes it as “incomprehensible” that the Defense “has not followed the people employed locally in Afghanistan during all these years”. They had an employment contract, but they are not listed anywhere. As a result, precious time has been lost in identifying those entitled to evacuation. ‘
Sara de Jong, an expert in the field and a political scientist at the University of York, told the House of Representatives on Wednesday that the Netherlands really is an exception in a few areas compared to other Western countries. “Unfortunately, until last week the Netherlands occupied an exceptional position focusing only on the (military, Red.) interpreters and not other local agents. But it is also exceptional that the recording turned out so bad ”.
In Germany there are approximately Local staff thought, and in the UK on the locally engaged civilians. According to De Jong, personnel hired by British troops have a registration number known to the Labor Support Unit. So, since the British relaxed their policies this summer, it’s much easier for Afghan personnel covered by the regime to identify themselves as needing to be evacuated.
In briefings the House of Representatives received on Wednesday, it was confirmed that although work is being carried out around the clock in Kabul and The Hague to evacuate Dutch and Afghan personnel, there are doubts in both places about to sufficient capacity. Meanwhile, the Taliban are tightening their grip on airport access and the Netherlands no longer plans to use helicopters to speed up the evacuation of the city.
The end of the evacuation – and the time for diplomats and soldiers to withdraw – is fast approaching. Two colonels involved in the evacuation and Deputy Foreign Secretary General Carola van Rijnsoever stressed that their own people are working hard in chaotic conditions. It’s also clear that the window that people can still exit has been open for a short time, remains elusive, and will likely close soon.
With all the praise that the relevant departments have received from MPs for their efforts – including, for example, the “dozens of volunteers” from the Foreign Ministry who help compile evacuation lists – experts also criticized Wednesday. They work just as hard from the outside to compile ‘correct’ evacuation files and lists and to guide groups of people from the Netherlands to the right place at the airport via WhatsApp groups. Anne-Marie Snels, former president of the AFMP military union: “We led a lot of people into the system with volunteers, but don’t ask how!
Col. Andrew Houwman of Special Operations Command and Van Rijnsoever explained how a working method had gradually developed over the past week, according to which “people could be allowed in in a controlled manner through the security rings. Around the airport. To underline how difficult the circumstances are, Van Rijnsoever said that there was “no good internet connection” at the airport gate, so the lists of people allowed to enter are transmitted via USB keys to soldiers who evacuate the crowd from the crowd, choose the right evacuees.
Fired after a hellish tour
The fact that this often goes wrong has been pointed out in countless stories of failed attempts to enter in recent days. Accidents also happen, like the people who are on the list and are allowed in, but once they have completed the hellish ride and are at the airport, they are always kicked out of the gate because that the spelling of their name on their Afghan identity card does not match the spelling of their name on the evacuation list.
Apart from that, the situation gets more and more complicated. According to Colonel Houwman, the Taliban are “more and more selective about the number of people in which category they let go.” Of course, scenarios are being considered after the August 31 end date, he said, “but we have to realize that the situation is mainly in the hands of the Taliban.” The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is currently investigating, with friendly countries, to come to the aid of the many people who cannot be evacuated in time, even after this date.
During a roundtable with four experts invited by the Chamber, journalist and researcher Bette Dam, affiliated with the University of Paris Sciences Po, advised to speak to the Taliban “in a European context” – and not to condemn them too early. Although the United States “has been killing the wrong people for 20 years and there is every reason for a fundamentalist regime to come to power there”, that is not the case now, said Dam. . “It’s an Afghan Orthodox national movement that wants to talk to us.”
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