In response to the worsening situation in Afghanistan, the core cabinet of the Belgian government has given the green light for an evacuation operation involving four Belgian aircraft.
Prime Minister Alexander De Croo announced on Twitter on Monday afternoon that as the situation in Afghanistan is changing rapidly, the first priority is the safety of the Belgians on the ground, meaning four planes will be sent to the capital Kabul to repatriate 50 Belgian families.
"That is why the nuclear cabinet has given the go-ahead for an evacuation operation by the Ministry of Defence. This evening, the core will meet to further discuss the situation," he said.
De situatie in Afghanistan wijzigt snel. Eerste prioriteit is de veiligheid van de Belgen ter plaatse.Daarom heeft het kernkabinet licht op groen gezet voor een evacuatie-operatie door Defensie. Vanavond komt de kern samen om de situatie verder te bespreken. — Alexander De Croo (@alexanderdecroo) August 16, 2021
Earlier on Monday, Ludivine Dedonder, the Belgian Minister of Defence, has proposed using various aircraft to aid an evacuation of Kabul airport.
Dedonder proposed using an Airbus A400 M, two C-130H Hercules, and a Falcon 7X as part of the "non-combatant evacuation operation".
Numerous western countries dispatched military equipment to Kabul's international airport - that for several years has been partly protected by Belgian troops - to evacuate foreign nationals, mostly from the US, Germany, France, and the Netherlands.
In a short press release from the cabinet, the minister justified the decision by pointing to the "worrying evolution of the situation in Afghanistan."
"Regarding Afghan interpreters and collaborators who worked for Belgian interests, they can make themselves known to our authorities. These people were often employed by other nations as well; they will also have the chance to apply for a visa to other countries," the minister added.
Belgians in Afghanistan
Meanwhile, over the past 24 hours, the Belgian Foreign Affairs Ministry has received around 47 questions from Belgians who are experiencing problems in Afghanistan, according to a ministry spokesperson.
As there is no Belgian diplomatic mission in Kabul - contact point is the embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan - consular assistance is very difficult, if not impossible to ensure, the ministry said.
"We are trying to think as pragmatically as possible, with all the means available and in cooperation with our international partners," it added.
The ministry is calling on all Belgians on the ground to get in touch as soon as possible and is urging people not to travel to the country.
"In view of the deterioration of the security situation in recent weeks as a result of increased fighting between the Afghan armed forces and the Taliban, as well as terrorist attacks, Belgian nationals are being formally requested not to travel to Afghanistan," the department stated on its website.
The original article has been updated to include information about the government approving the evacuation mission.
The Brussels Times