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Second Dutch minister resigns over Afghanistan evacuations

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By Euronews  with AP, DPA
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In this file photo, Dutch defence minister Ank Bijleveld smiles while speaking with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
In this file photo, Dutch defence minister Ank Bijleveld smiles while speaking with European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.   -   Copyright  Darko Bandic/Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

The Dutch defence minister quit her functions on Friday, a day after the country’s parliament passed a motion of censure against her for her handling of chaotic evacuations of translators from Kabul who worked for Dutch forces in Afghanistan.

Ank Bijleveld is the second minister in the Netherlands' caretaker coalition government to resign over the evacuations, following the foreign minister, Sigrid Kaag.

Kaag stepped down immediately after the parliamentary censure motion was passed on Thursday night. A day earlier, Kaag had acknowledged that some local embassy staff and translators for Dutch troops had not been evacuated from Kabul. She said this was due to the government's muddled response to warnings about the situation on the ground.

After the motion was passed, Kaag immediately said she would tender her resignation, saying parliament had decided that "the Cabinet has acted irresponsibly".

"I can only accept the consequences of this judgment as the minister with ultimate responsibility," she said in a short resignation speech. "I can do no more than accept the consequences. The minister must go if the policy is rejected.

Bijleveld initially said she would remain in office but resigned Friday afternoon amid political debate over why she refused to follow Kaag's example.

In a brief press statement on Friday announcing her departure, Bijleveld explained why she initially chose to stay in office.

"I wanted to continue to complete the task that I stand for," she said. "For the men and women who are on the front lines and to complete the job of bringing to safety the translators who are still in Afghanistan and who are counting on us."

But she added that, "I see that my decision to remain in office has become the subject of discussion. As a result, I can no longer adequately take responsibility for my people."

Bijleveld is a senior member of the Christian Democrats party that is currently in drawn-out talks to form the next Dutch ruling coalition following a general election in March.

Caretaker Prime Minister Mark Rutte, leader of the conservative People's Party for Freedom and Democracy that won the most seats in the election, is in talks with Kaag's centrist D66 party and the Christian Democrats to form a minority coalition after months of talks to cobble together a coalition with a majority in parliament collapsed.