“The aim is to discuss how we can remove the Dutch and Afghans from the evacuation list to the Netherlands,” says Kaag. “That requires diplomatic talks and thoughts about implementation. It is important that we do this with the countries in the region because they have the contacts and the insights.”
The minister will leave for the region ‘as soon as possible’ – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will not announce exactly when for security reasons. Visiting Qatar is important because the Taliban has an office there. It suggests that Kaag may have direct talks with the Taliban about a safe pass for Dutch and Afghans who have helped the Netherlands or who are otherwise at risk. Dutch contact with the Taliban is still through the Germans, who do have a direct line with the terror regime. According to Kaag, she will first speak with her colleagues from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The visit to Turkey is important because the country also has direct contacts with the Taliban. Ankara has offered to help reopen the airport in the capital Kabul for commercial aviation. A Defense team operates from Pakistan and keeps a C130 transport plane in reserve in Islamabad. Other evacuation routes are also currently being explored, via other airports and by land. For example, it is being examined whether evacuation is possible via Uzbekistan, where Germany has a military base.
“The question is also: where are we going to relocate the embassy? In which country? Who are we going to talk to?” For example, the Dutch embassy team for Syria works from Beirut (Lebanon) and the embassy staff for Libya from the Tunisian capital Tunis.
Also of note is the statement issued by the Americans and a hundred other countries in which the Taliban promise safe passage for foreign passport holders and Afghans who are welcome elsewhere. “It’s about how we are going to judge the Taliban by their words and actions,” says Kaag. “First see, then believe.”
The British and the French will present a resolution to the UN Security Council on Monday to create a safe zone in Kabul from which evacuation can take place.
The situation is now, with attacks and rocket fires, not very hopeful, says Kaag. “It is not an overnight matter. We have to be realistic about that.” At the moment, according to Minister Bijleveld (Defence), ‘nothing is possible’. Later this week, she will consult with the European defense ministers about a restart of the evacuations from Afghanistan.
The registration of Afghans who claim to be eligible for evacuation is still growing, says Kaag. “There are now also many Afghans who suddenly report to the Dutch embassy from Iran. It’s an influx of applications. we handle that with care.”