LIVE | France tries to evacuate hundreds of people after deadly attack

KABUL – Chaos and fear in Afghanistan as the radical Taliban have taken over the country at lightning speed. Only at the airport of Kabul are American soldiers still to be found. Desperate Afghans try to flee the country, the Netherlands is also struggling with evacuees and flights that have to be arranged.

  • Taliban: ‘At least 13 dead in Kabul airport explosion’
  • Chaos at Kabul airport after gates close
  • Emergency order after protests against the arrival of Afghans Harskamp applies until Sunday
  • Dutch Hercules pilot Maurice Schonk helps with evacuation operation: ‘ I am proud that we are doing this as a small country ‘
  • Afghan baby born on evacuation flight is named after plane
  • Harskamp revolts against the arrival of Afghans: ‘ The people here are just afraid

17.34 – France is still trying to evacuate hundreds of people

France is still trying to get several hundred people out of Afghanistan. French President Macron’s announcement came shortly after a deadly attack at the airport in the Afghan capital Kabul. The airport is crucial for the evacuations.

According to Macron, Paris will make every effort, but he cannot give any guarantees due to the “extremely tense” security situation. He said there are still 20 buses with evacuees that France wants to evacuate. It concerns several hundred people who are still at risk, the president said.

Partly due to fears of attacks, Germany ended its evacuations from Afghanistan. The last military aircraft left Kabul on Thursday. The Germans thus join the growing list of Western countries that no longer carry out flights due to the approaching departure of the Americans, who are coordinating the airlift.

Since the radical Islamic Taliban took power over a week and a half ago after a surprisingly rapid advance, many people have wanted to get out of Afghanistan as soon as possible. The August 31 deadline for all foreign troops to leave the country has left many people behind.

17.13 – First 240 evacuees arrive in Amsterdam emergency shelter

The first 240 Afghan evacuees arrived on Thursday afternoon in Amsterdam, where a fifth emergency shelter for refugees from Afghanistan has been opened. “They are tired and grateful for our reception,” reports a spokeswoman for the Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers (COA).

Defense makes part of the Marine Etablissement Amsterdam available. The COA can accommodate approximately 350 evacuees.

According to the spokeswoman, most evacuees “go to their rooms after a meal to relax after the rough period and arduous journey they have had.” Everyone has to be quarantined because of corona. The group, according to the COA spokeswoman, is “very mixed, from singles to families and people of all ages.”

Mayor Femke Halsema calls it self-evident that the city contributes to temporary emergency shelter and warmly welcomes the Afghans. “These people have had a horrible time and deserve rest in the emergency shelter.” Together with the COA, the municipality is investigating its own role in providing accommodation after the emergency shelter.

The location on Kattenburgerstraat in Amsterdam is for the most part owned by the municipality. Together with the department responsible for recruitment and selection, the Ministry of Defense is still on the naval site. In addition to Amsterdam, evacuees will be received in the barracks in Zoutkamp in Groningen, the Walaardt Sacré Camp in Huis ter Heide (municipality of Zeist), the De Harskamp camp in Harskamp and from Sunday in tent camp Heumensoord near Nijmegen.

15.43 – Pentagon confirms evacuations will continue over the weekend

The US Department of Defense has stressed that evacuations from Kabul airport continue. A ministry spokesman denied reports that the armed forces are in the process of halting all evacuations for the weekend. “The evacuations will not stop in 36 hours, we will continue to evacuate as many people as possible until the end of our mission.”

The evacuation mission will last until August 31. Many countries stop picking up people from the airport. U.S. armed forces must return equipment and 6,000 troops before Wednesday.

15.20 – House wants emergency debate about the end of the evacuation of Afghanistan

The House of Representatives wants an emergency debate about the end of the evacuation from Afghanistan. The cabinet announced on Thursday that the airlift will be stopped at the direction of the Americans. “This is a black day for everyone who is still stuck in Afghanistan,” said Jeroen van Wijngaarden (VVD).

According to him, the big question now is how many Dutch and Afghans are still trapped in the Afghan capital Kabul and “how we get them out of there”, he says. “We, as NATO countries, have allowed ourselves to be caught off guard with an only partially successful evacuation.”

Don Ceder (Christian Union) speaks of “a great tragedy” that many people have to be left behind in fear and great uncertainty. “As far as I am concerned, the cabinet will present alternative evacuation scenarios as soon as possible to get everyone out of there.” He requests an emergency debate with several parties.

“We are leaving behind Afghans who have served side by side with our military for years. In agony. A total embarrassment for the outgoing cabinet. I’m furious because precious time has been lost,” PvdA’s Kati Piri tweeted.

Her colleague Tom van der Lee (GroenLinks) finds it “terrible” that people have to be left behind. Underestimating the Taliban, overestimating the Afghan army and slavishly following the Americans cannot hide the fact that the Netherlands acted too amateurishly and ignored the importance of protecting local staff for far too long.

15.10 – Afghan gets 10 months in prison shortly after arriving in France; suspected ties to Taliban

An Afghan man has been sentenced to ten months in prison in France shortly after arriving there from Kabul. The man is suspected of having ties to the Taliban and was therefore placed under surveillance, he was not allowed to leave the Paris suburb of Noisy-le-Grand, but did so anyway. M. stayed there with his wife and child.

Ahmat M. says that he felt ill and therefore wanted to go to a shop outside Noisy-le-Grand. He says he followed a man to the shop who was in the same hotel, not knowing he was going to the center of Paris. That man says that he went to Paris at the request of M. to buy SIM cards.

M. and three others were placed under surveillance for having contact with a man believed to be a member of the Taliban. They have all been subject to restrictions.

Mr.’s lawyer says he is not a Taliban fighter. “This is a man who fled his country with his wife and three-month-old daughter who went to the supermarket.”

15.04 – Flight with 269 evacuees from Kabul landed at Schiphol

An aircraft chartered by Defense with 269 evacuees from Afghanistan landed at Schiphol Airport on Thursday afternoon. Among the passengers are thirty people with a Dutch passport, reports the Ministry of Defense. Today is the last day that evacuation flights from the Afghan capital Kabul are still being carried out.

Another 199 passengers were transferred from Kabul to Islamabad on Thursday afternoon. This happened with two transport aircraft of the type C-130, according to the Ministry of Defense.

15.03 – Canada stops evacuating Afghanistan

Canada has ended its evacuation operation in Afghanistan, Canada’s Ministry of Defense reports. The government says they would have liked to have stayed longer to rescue anyone who would have liked to, but conditions were deteriorating to the point that this was no longer possible. “It’s really heartbreaking,” said a ministry representative.

Canada has collected approximately 3,700 Canadians and Afghans from Kabul. The country had not had a strong military presence in the country for seven years.

The end of the Canadian mission comes a few days before the deadline set by the United States, August 31. Several countries have already stopped. Belgium cut off the operation on Wednesday evening because there is a threat of a possible attack on the airport. The Netherlands will stop the evacuation on Thursday. France and Germany expect to complete the operation on Friday.

In total, more than 95,000 people have now been collected from Afghanistan since the Taliban took power.

14.07 – Rutte calls the end of evacuation ‘terrible news’ for Afghans

The end of the evacuation mission in the Afghan capital Kabul is “terrible news” for the Afghans who still wanted to leave the country, said outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte. Everything will be done to help those left behind, he said.

The Netherlands announced earlier in the day that it would stop the evacuation at the request of the Americans. The cabinet also calls on people not to come to the airport anymore. There is now talk of a “terror threat,” said the prime minister.

Rutte promised that the cabinet will do everything it can to help people who have been left behind. How many Dutch and Afghans were left behind is still being mapped, he said. There are probably still hundreds of Dutch and Afghans who need to be evacuated. Rutte only wanted to say that in any case it concerns a “substantial number of Dutch people with their families and others that we want to evacuate”.

There is busy consultation with other European countries to help those left behind. “Everyone is very motivated to go to the extreme,” said the Prime Minister.

The cabinet was “surprised” by the speed with which Kabul fell into the hands of the strict Islamic Taliban, Rutte said. “We blame ourselves for making the wrong assessment of the situation on the ground.”

13.41 – More than 95,000 people evacuated from Afghanistan, the Netherlands 1,857 evacuees

About 95,700 people have been evacuated since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan more than a week and a half ago, according to the Pentagon. On Wednesday there were 13,400. Qatar says it has helped more than 40,000 people to leave, and the United Kingdom and Germany have also removed many people from Afghanistan via Kabul airport.

Qatar seems to have helped most people. The state says it has sheltered 40,000 people in Doha. Many other countries flew people from Kabul to Doha so they could continue from there. These evacuations were therefore not all done with Qatari aircraft. Qatar has also offered to give these people a vaccination against the corona virus.

The United States does not say exactly how many people they have helped, but it would be 4400 people of American nationality. The country does not say how many people with a different nationality have been helped. The Americans say the evacuations will stop by August 31 and they are currently checking Kabul airport.

The British have evacuated 12,279 people from Kabul and there are still 400 British people in Afghanistan. The military has not said when it will stop evacuation flights, but the last British soldier must have left the country before the Americans leave.

On Thursday, the German Defense Ministry said it had evacuated 5,347 people. It concerns at least 4200 Afghans and 505 Germans. The Germans want to continue “until the last second.” According to government sources, that is Friday. There are still four German flights from Kabul on Thursday.

France also makes no precise statements about the number of people evacuated. More than 2,000 Afghans and more than a hundred French are said to have reached France, it is not known how many people were brought to countries in the region. The deadline for the French is Friday evening, after that there will be no more flights from Kabul.

The Dutch government reported on Wednesday that 1,857 evacuees had been brought to the Netherlands so far. The Defense site lists the flights from Kabul, but not all passengers are listed for every flight. That number adds up to 1463. The Netherlands will stop evacuating on Thursday. Flights are yet to arrive during the day.

12.15 – Afghan youth movement calls strike evacuation bizarre

The cessation of evacuation flights from Kabul means that many Western-oriented Afghans are “trapped” and will not be able to escape, says Afghani-born Dutch Nadjla Akbari (29). As one of the board members of the Azadi youth movement, she is organizing a demonstration in Amsterdam on Saturday to draw attention to the plight of the Afghans who were forced to stay behind.

“It’s very bizarre that the evacuation is now stopped,” Akbari said on behalf of Azadi in response to the cabinet’s decision to remove the last Dutch and Afghan employees from Kabul on Thursday. The situation at and around Kabul airport is deteriorating “very quickly,” according to a letter to the House of Representatives.

Akbari has nothing good to say about this behavior and that of other countries. “Everyone saw this coming. Me too and I’m not a minister. Don’t leave people with a Dutch passport or people who have helped you there,” she says.

Her niece, who works for a German organization for women’s emancipation in Kabul, is one of the people who has been unable to flee. “I have sent several emails about this, also to the German authorities. My niece went to the airport every day but couldn’t get out. She’s been empowering women and well, the Taliban has nothing to do with that. In addition, she studied at the American University in Kabul. She is one of the women trapped by the Taliban.”

She says she does not cherish much hope for her niece and fellow sufferers. “The Taliban is creating a brain drain because highly educated Afghans are being taken out of the country by foreign organizations. But the future of many Afghans is bleak. They are barbarians.”

On Saturday Akbari and their supporters will demonstrate for the legalization of all Afghans in the Netherlands, including the approximately 1,200 people who have been evacuated from Kabul in recent days. “We want the Dutch government to take action immediately and declare Afghanistan an unsafe country, and not just in a debate somewhere in October. People who are still in the procedure or who are undocumented must also receive a residence permit.” The Azadi organization expects a large influx of sympathizers on Saturday.

11.10 – Kaag: no good view of how many evacuees are left behind in Kabul

It is currently difficult to say how many people will remain in Kabul, now that the Netherlands, like other countries, must stop the evacuation. According to outgoing minister Sigrid Kaag (Foreign Affairs), the lists of reports continue to grow and there are also a “large number” of Dutch people with their families.

Outgoing minister Ank Bijleveld (Defence) said on Wednesday that it would be hundreds rather than dozens of stragglers. She couldn’t give more precise numbers at the time either.

The Netherlands has now been able to evacuate about 1500 people from Afghanistan. According to Kaag, the commitment remains to help those who are entitled to evacuation or return. She hopes that the Kabul airport will not remain closed for long. She does not make any statements about a ‘plan B’ for evacuation. The nearly 120 people who were still able to reach the airport can count on Dutch help, Kaag assured.

The gates of Kabul airport have since been closed and the Americans have “urgently requested” other countries to complete their evacuation operations. There would be strong indications of a terrorist attack on the queues at the airport. The Americans, who are in charge of the airport, will leave on August 31. Kaag previously said that the Netherlands did not evacuate everyone before that deadline.

10.55 – Eyewitnesses say crowds at Kabul airport are increasing

Eyewitnesses tell the German news agency dpa that the crowds at the Kabul airport are increasing, despite the threat of a terrorist attack. People are so close together ” it looks like a wall.”

Several governments have called on people not to come to the airport again, for fear of an attack. At the same time, the deadline for evacuations from Afghanistan is approaching and people are becoming more desperate to escape the Taliban. Belgium has already stopped evacuations and the Netherlands will fly for the last time on Thursday.

According to an eyewitness, people are standing in the blazing sun waving papers at the security guards and calling for help. The area is closed 200 meters before the entrance, people cannot pass without permission. People do not advance a meter, but stop, hoping to still be allowed in. There are also children and babies in the crowd.

Many people who have worked with Western countries now want to leave Afghanistan for fear of reprisals from the Taliban’s Muslim extremists. Those jihadists have recently taken power in Afghanistan and many people fear that rule will again be brutal, as in their first stint in power between 1996 and 2001.

09.13 – The Netherlands calls on people to stop going to Kabul airport

The Netherlands calls on people in Afghanistan not to come to Kabul airport anymore. This is confirmed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The situation at the airport is too dangerous and the entrance gates are closed. The ministry is calling on people to move to a safe location.

Hundreds more people are on lists to be evacuated. The evacuation operation will probably come to an end soon. Outgoing minister Sigrid Kaag (Foreign Affairs) said on Wednesday that time is running out. Belgium announced later that day that it would stop the evacuation.

Kaag also indicated that not all people can be evacuated. Every day people still report to the Dutch embassy who want to leave. In recent days, almost 2000 people have been brought to the Netherlands from Kabul.

The US and British governments are also calling on their citizens to stop coming to the international airport. It is also advised to get out of there. Thousands of people have gathered around the airport hoping to get away.

The Taliban have announced that they will no longer allow Afghans to enter the airport. Three buses with Dutch evacuees were stuck at the airport all Wednesday. A number of Afghans who were on the buses have been removed. After that, the buses were still able to reach the airport.

The US military will leave on August 31. But they will close the airport days early to be able to get their own people and equipment out of the country. The Americans indicate when countries should stop their evacuation operations.

08.45 – British intelligence points to risk of attack at Kabul . airport

The British Ministry of Defense has intelligence on a “highly probable threat” of an attack on the crowds at Kabul airport, Defense Secretary James Heappey told BBC Radio. Heappey can’t say much about the content of the intelligence, only that the threat is “heavy.”

CNN previously reported on the basis of an anonymous government source that the terrorist organization IS would prepare several attacks at the airport. US President Joe Biden has repeatedly said in recent days that he feared this.

British authorities advise people in Kabul to stay away from the airport. The US embassy in Kabul has already done this for Americans. People waiting at the three entrances to Hamid Karzai International Airport are advised to leave immediately. The US safety warning also tells people to be alert to their surroundings, especially in crowds. They also need to make a plan for emergencies.

08.15 – France does not expect any more evacuations from Friday evening

French Prime Minister Jean Castex expects that no more people can be evacuated from Kabul from Friday evening. France said it had removed more than 1,000 people from Afghanistan on Wednesday.

The German Defense Ministry reports that it will continue “until the last second.” In total 5193 people were taken from Afghanistan by the Germans, on Wednesday there were 593.

The two Hungarian military passenger planes and the Hungarian military personnel who were in Afghanistan for evacuations arrived safely in Budapest on Thursday. The country has already stopped taking people back. In total, more than five hundred were taken from Afghanistan by Hungary.

The Taliban will allow evacuations until August 31, after which they do not want more people to be taken from the country by soldiers from other countries. Belgium already stopped the evacuations on Wednesday evening. The US called on Americans to stay away from the airport for fear of attacks, which terrorist group IS would prepare.

A NATO diplomat said the Taliban have promised to keep the airport safe as long as the evacuations continue.

03.27 – Three buses with Dutch people reach Kabul . airport

Three buses that the Netherlands has deployed to evacuate people in the Afghan capital Kabul have reached Kabul airport after a long wait. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirms reports about this from various media. A spokesperson cannot say how many people were on the buses. According to the NOS, there are a total of 120 people, all of whom have a Dutch passport.

According to a source of the NOS, seven people without passports were brutally removed from the buses by Taliban fighters before reaching the airport. A spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs says that the people who have arrived at the airport will be evacuated as soon as possible by flight.

Outgoing Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag reported on Wednesday that “chaos” and “panic” are starting to arise among people at the airport, because time is running out to get out of the country. During the night from Wednesday to Thursday, the United States and the United Kingdom called on their own citizens in Afghanistan to stay away from the airport because of possible terrorist attacks. The spokesman for Foreign Affairs could not say whether the warning was also issued for Dutch people in Kabul.

01:50 – US urges citizens to stay away from Kabul . airport

The US embassy in Kabul has issued a security warning on its website urging US citizens in Afghanistan not to come to the capital’s airport. She also advises people waiting at the three entrances to Hamid Karzai International Airport to leave immediately. The British government also warns its citizens to seek a “safe place” away from the airport.

The reasons for the warnings are unknown. In recent days, US President Joe Biden has repeatedly said he fears an attack by the Afghan branch of the terrorist organization IS near the airport.

CNN reports on the basis of an anonymous government source that there is intelligence that IS is planning multiple attacks at the airport.

The US safety warning also states that people should be alert to their surroundings, especially in crowds. They also need to make a plan for emergencies.

The big question is whether everyone who wants to leave Afghanistan can also leave before the August 31 deadline. People will probably be left behind, says foreign chief Frank van Vliet in the America podcast Uncle Joe :

Wednesday 22.00 – Belgium stops evacuations from Afghanistan

Belgium has ended the evacuations from Afghanistan, the Belgian government reported in Brussels. In a series of flights after the takeover by the Taliban, the Belgians picked up hundreds of people, including Dutch people.

The government has decided to end evacuations from the airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, given the situation in Afghanistan and “in agreement with other European partners.” Five more flights were operated on Wednesday between Kabul and the Pakistani capital Islamabad. In the coming days, the evacuees will be flown to their southern neighbors.

The Belgian prime minister and the ministers involved will provide more details about the results of the evacuation and “the next steps” at a press conference on Thursday morning, the government said.

Other countries are also expected to end their evacuation operation in the coming days as the Americans withdraw from Afghanistan next week. US troops still control Kabul airport and Afghan airspace. They also coordinate the international airlift.

Wednesday 21.00 – Washington: commitment to continue to evacuate after August 31

Even after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan next week, it should remain possible to leave the country. The Americans will use every diplomatic, political or economic means to ensure the departure of anyone who wants to leave after August 31, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken promises.

On Wednesday, the minister gave the latest overview of American efforts to evacuate Americans and other civilians from Afghanistan. According to him, there may still be 1,500 Americans who want to leave after the takeover by the radical Taliban movement. At least 4,500 Americans and their families have been evacuated since mid-August.

The day before, US President Joe Biden had rejected a request from Western allies to keep the US military in the country beyond the planned departure date of August 31. The Americans organize the airlift and still control the airport of the Afghan capital Kabul and Afghan airspace.