Today, most people woke up to more than the regular Monday dread as news of the Taliban takeover of Kabul continues dominating papers and social media.
The much earlier than expected fall of Kabul is a tragedy for the Afghan people. Throughout yesterday and today, locals and internationals alike have been trying to leave Afghanistan, reports the NOS. Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening and the Dutch’s role in Afghanistan.
Dutch evacuated by Ukraine
Early this morning, the Ukrainian foreign minister reported that his country had helped evacuate a number of Dutch people from the capital. In addition to Dutch people, Ukrainian planes flew out Ukrainians, Afghans, Croats, and Belarusians.
It’s not known exactly how many Dutch people were evacuated or what their function in Kabul was. They could be embassy staff or employees of aid organisations operating in Afghanistan.
The outgoing Minister of Defense for the Netherlands, Ank Bijleveld, said yesterday that a plane will be sent to pick up the remaining Dutch in Kabul. She also said the Netherlands is taking some other action, but wouldn’t elaborate due to security reasons.
The Dutch mission in Afghanistan was “not in vain”
Yesterday, Bijleveld explained that the almost 20-year long Dutch involvement in Afghanistan hasn’t been in vain — despite the recent developments. According to RTL Nieuws, she emphasised that international intervention has shown the Afghan people that “things can be done differently.”
In that sense, the fall of Kabul should not be seen as a return to square one. Although it’s “very sad,” according to Bijleveld, the past 20 years has given Afghanistan a new perspective on life and government. For example, the life expectancy in the country has increased from an average of 40 years to 60 years.
Bijleveld believes that there’s no longer a military solution to the situation in Afghanistan. Rather, the people will have to work for democracy themselves as “you simply cannot give a country democracy.”
Her hope is that Dutch and international involvement has given the Afghan people an image of how things could be and that they’ll take action to “do things differently.”
What was the Dutch mission in Afghanistan?
Like most missions to Afghanistan, the Dutch involvement is a story of unclear goals and complicated actions.
The Netherlands first sent soldiers to Afghanistan in 2002 as part of NATO forces under the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to help fight insurgent groups and rebuild the country.
However, the Dutch were most active in Afghanistan between 2006 and 2010 with a mission in the province of Uruzgan. Technically, the mission was about providing stability and security to the region but there was also a lot of fighting. From 2006-2010, the Dutch saw quite a lot of combat and 25 soldiers were killed.
There was talk of extending the mission past 2010 but instead, the Netherlands shifted to an ‘integrated police training mission‘ in 2011. This was not without controversy and the mission was phased out in 2013 — a year earlier than planned.
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Feature Image: Staff Sgt. Richard Andrade/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain