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Dutch evacuations from Afghanistan begin after failed attempts

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By Euronews  with AFP
Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag answers questions of journalists in The Hague
Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag answers questions of journalists in The Hague   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Peter Dejong

The Netherlands has begun evacuating citizens from Afghanistan after two failed attempts due to the chaotic situation at Kabul airport.

Thirty-five Dutch citizens were on board a Boeing C-17 military transport plane that left Kabul on Wednesday, the Netherlands' defence ministry confirmed.

But officials have warned that "this is only a first step" and that "many, many more people still need to be evacuated".

The Netherlands had scheduled two charter flights to land in Kabul earlier this week, but both were cancelled due to unsafe landing conditions following the Taliban's takeover of the country.

Another military plane failed to land in Afghanistan on Tuesday because "priority was given locally to flying in extra security".

"The Netherlands is doing everything it can to facilitate the evacuation of people from Afghanistan," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

"Several steps have been taken to this end in recent days, but the security situation in Kabul is fragile."

The Netherlands has also encountered issues with the US military providing security at the airport. According to media reports, several Dutch citizens were denied access to Kabul airport on Wednesday morning despite being summoned by diplomatic staff via e-mails.

The US military had allowed the plane to remain on the tarmac in the Afghan capital for thirty minutes before asking it to leave, without any Dutch nationals on board, according to Dutch foreign minister Sigrid Kaag.

"Many people were there with their families, with their children. They were there at the entrance of the airport. It's terrible," said Kaag, according to the Dutch news agency ANP.

The Netherlands was due to hold talks with the Americans to prevent a repeat of the situation and speed up the evacuation. The country's ambassador, a consular emergency team and 62 soldiers have also travelled to Afghanistan to provide additional protection and support.

"The situation at the airport is unclear and very changeable," the foreign ministry statement said, "United States military personnel have assumed the security and coordination of the flights."

"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Defense are working hard to clarify when the intended evacuees can enter the airport."

Dutch embassy officials were criticised earlier this week for leaving their official residence at night without notifying Afghan staff. Local employees found out the next day when they went to work, saying they felt abandoned.

"That was not ill will, they had to leave immediately after receiving instructions," said Kaag.

A former employee of the Dutch embassy in Afghanistan has told Euronews that "it is too risky" for people to travel to the airport in the current climate.