European nations step up evacuation flights from Kabul


European nations are continuing evacuation flights from Kabul, with the Dutch government hoping for more success after a failed flight yesterday. 

Aircraft operated by German, French and British military have been transporting nationals and refugees out of Kabul, after the Taliban swiftly took control of the capital over the weekend. Evacuation efforts had been suspended on August 16, 2021, over safety concerns after people desperate to leave invaded the runway. 

Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) is helping the German army by providing airlifts from Doha, Qatar and Tashkent, Uzbekistan using one of its A340-300 long-haul aircraft.

The German army said it planned to send four flights to Kabul on August 18, 2021, for evacuation purposes, adding additional capacity after operations were curtailed the previous day because fire fighting services were not available in Kabul. 

One A400M has already departed from Tashkent in the morning to bring back German citizens, staff, and other people at risk, the Bundeswehr wrote in a social media post on August 18, 2021. The first Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) flight from Tashkent in cooperation with the Bundeswehr landed at Frankfurt overnight, the German flag carrier said.

Meanwhile, French foreign minister Jean-Yves le Drian said France evacuated 216 people out of Kabul overnight, including 25 French nationals and 184 Afghans.

“France also provided support to partner states, by transporting 4 Dutch nationals, 1 Irish and 2 Kenyans,” le Drian added, describing the operations as complex. The minister said the evacuees had arrived in Abu Dhabi on August 18, 2021.  

The Netherlands is hoping for more successful evacuation efforts after a C-17 transport aircraft left Kabul on the night of August 17, but without any Dutch or Afghans on board following problems getting those eligible into the airport.  

“It’s awful. Many were there at the gates of the airport with their families,” Dutch foreign minister Sigrid Kaag told Dutch news agency ANP on August 17. “I hope the situation will improve on Wednesday. We are trying to get a grip on the situation and to make sure that we get everyone we want to evacuate out.”

A flight by the United Kingdom’s Royal Air Force (RAF) also landed at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, in the UK on August 17. Further flights are expected over the coming days as part of Operation Pitting to evacuate British nationals and eligible Afghan staff. 

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