Aside from the list of 273 translation permits issued in Uruzgan between 2006 and 2010, the Ministry of Defense has no records of former employees during its 19-year presence in Afghanistan. Now that these people were in principle subject to the interpreter system, this made their evacuation even more difficult.
But since the House of Representatives adopted Belhadj’s proposal last week, the defense has opened a hotline. Military and veterans are being asked to present horrific cases of people now at risk because of their work for the Netherlands. “When assessing whether someone has worked for us, a service contract helps, but is not necessary,” a company spokesperson said. Photographs or identification of a (former) soldier are also accepted.
The Department of Defense now says it is investigating “whether there are more comparable contract forms as with interpreter permits.” According to the Ministry of Defense, most of the local employees were contractors to other countries or institutions (such as NATO) with which the Netherlands cooperates, or from subcontractors.
Wasted precious time
MP Katy Perry (PvdA) described it as “incomprehensible” that the Department of Defense had not tracked people it had employed locally in Afghanistan all those years. They had an employment contract, but they are not registered anywhere. As a result, valuable time has been lost in determining who is entitled to evict.
The Netherlands is already an exception in a few areas compared to other Western countries, Sarah de Jong, an expert in the field and a political scientist at York University, told the House of Representatives on Wednesday. Unfortunately, until last week, the Netherlands occupied an exceptional position by focusing only on (the army, red.) for translators and not for other local employees. But it is also exceptional that the recording is so bad.”
In Germany there are about local staff Thought, in the UK about locally employed civilians. According to de Jong, personnel recruited by British forces have a known registration number with the Workers’ Support Unit. Therefore, since Britain relaxed its policies this summer, it has been easier for the Afghan individuals covered by the plan to identify themselves as having to evacuate.
In briefings to the House of Representatives on Wednesday, it was emphasized that although work is underway in Kabul and The Hague to evacuate Dutch and Afghan staff, there are doubts in both places as to whether capacity will be sufficient. Meanwhile, the Taliban are strengthening their grip on access to the airport and the Netherlands is no longer considering using helicopters to speed up the evacuation from the city.
The end of the evacuation – and the moment when diplomats and military must withdraw – is fast approaching. Deputy Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs Carola van Rijnsffer, two faiths involved in the evacuation, confirmed that their people are working hard in chaotic conditions. It is also clear that the window through which people can still leave has been open for a short time, is still difficult to reach, and will likely close soon.
With all the praise the departments concerned have received from lawmakers for their efforts — including, for example, ‘dozens of volunteers’ at the State Department helping to compile evacuation lists — there were criticisms from experts on Wednesday. They work hard from the outside in compiling the “correct” files and evacuation lists and directing groups of people from the Netherlands to the right place at the airport via WhatsApp groups. Anne-Marie Snells, former president of the AFMP military union: “We’ve pushed many people through the system with volunteers, but don’t ask how!”
Colonel Andrew Howman of Special Operations Command and Van Rijnsver explained how a modus operandi has been developed gradually over the past week where “people can be allowed in in a controlled manner through the security loops” around the airport. To underscore how difficult the conditions are, Van Rijnsver said there is no “good internet” at the airport gate, so lists of people allowed in are passed on via USB sticks to soldiers clearing the crowd. Choose the appropriate evacuees.
Sent away after hell ride
It has been emphasized that this often goes wrong in the countless stories of failed attempts at entry in the last days. Accidents happen too, like people on the list are allowed in, but after the hell ride is done and they’re at the airport, they’re still outside the gate because the spelling of their name on their Afghan ID card doesn’t match the spelling of their name on the evacuation list.
Regardless, the situation is getting more and more complicated. According to Colonel Houmann, the Taliban are “increasingly selective in the number of people they let pass of any class.” Of course, scenarios are being considered after the August 31 end date, “but we have to realize that basically the situation is in the hands of the Taliban,” he said. The State Department is currently investigating friendly countries to assist many people who cannot be evacuated in time, even after that date.
In a roundtable discussion with four experts invited by the Chamber of Deputies, journalist and researcher Pete Dam, affiliated with the Paris Sciences Po University, advised speaking to the Taliban “in a European context” – and not convicting them early. Dam said that although the United States “has killed the wrong people for 20 years and there is every reason to have a fundamentalist regime in power there,” that is not the case now. “This is an Afghan national orthodox movement that wants to talk to us.”
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