Belgium sends 145 addition troops to help with the Afghan evacuation mission
On Monday evening The Belgian Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder (Francophone socialist) told VRT News that Belgium would be sending additional troops to Islamabad and Kabul to assist the 100 already there as part of Operation Red Kite. On Tuesday 145 additional Belgian soldiers left for Islamabad to help with the evacuation of people from Kabul Airport.
This has more than doubled the number of Belgian military personnel involved in the mission. Speaking on VRT News’ daily televised current affairs programme ‘Terzake’ on Monday evening, Ms Dedonder said that “Each time we will use the aircraft that would otherwise fly from Belgium to Islamabad empty to strengthen our presence. We are preparing ourselves for every eventuality and together with our partner countries we are evaluating all possible options”.
Belgium is still requesting people that wish to be evacuated by the Belgian military to make their own way to Kabul Airport. However, Ms Dedonder told Terzake that other options are being looked into.
“By increasing the number of troops, we are able to work in shifts. Because if the situation develops in one way or another, we need to be ready on the ground in order to react”, the Defence Minister said.
Ms Dedonder went on to say that the situation on the ground has improved compared with how it was at the start of the operation. The slots given to the Belgian military are now being put to optimal use and the Belgian C-130 military transport planes are taking off from Kabul Airport full. By Monday evening the Belgian military had evacuated at total of 700 people.
Nevertheless, the situation in and around Kabul Airport remains extremely complex, chaotic and volatile. “Today (Monday) and yesterday (Sunday) we were able to function normally in conditions that were very difficult”.
Ms Dedonder added that there is good cooperation between the Belgium military and the other countries involved in the evacuation, for example The Netherlands and Denmark.
“During to first few days cooperation was more difficult as the gate were closed, but now the cooperation is good”
The Defence Minister also told VRT News that the Belgian authorities had not been in contact with the Taliban.
Speaking about the deadline for the American withdraw from Kabul Airport, Ms Dedonder said “We are aware of this, and we have organised ourselves with it in mind. This means that we have increased the number of flights. On Sunday there were 4, on Monday 4 and on Tuesday maybe 4 as well if necessary. We need to carry out a maximum number of flights and ensure that as many people as possible have been evacuated before the gates close”.