More than 100 Belgian soldiers and two Defence transport planes that were still present in Pakistan’s capital, Islamabad, are now returning to Belgium as the federal government ends Operation Red Kite.
The presence of the Belgian military and the two transport planes in Islamabad as part of Operation Red Kite is “no longer necessary,” announced Defence Minister Ludivine Dedonder, Foreign Affairs Minister Sophie Wilmès and State Secretary for Asylum and Migration Sammy Mahdi in a joint press release.
Belgian evacuations from the airport of Kabul, in Afghanistan, already stopped at the end of August, but the mission still continued from Islamabad and on the ground in Belgium.
The military and transport aircraft that are now returning had remained in Islamabad as a reserve unit at the request of the government.
The missions of other European countries (the Netherlands, France and Germany) are coming to an end as well, and since the US forces left Kabul airport on Monday evening, there is no longer any possibility of evacuating people by land or air.
“The Defence Ministry will continue to use its existing network of liaison officers and defence attachés to follow the evolution of the situation in Afghanistan and to continue the close contacts with our partner countries, including Germany, France, the Netherlands and the United States,” the press release reads.
On 20 August, Belgium opened an air bridge between Islamabad and Kabul airport, to evacuate Belgians and other rightful candidates from the Afghan capital after the Taliban regained control of the country.
At least 1,400 people were able to leave Afghanistan this way, but the mission was halted last Wednesday due to an imminent terrorist threat.
The situation in Afghanistan will be discussed by European foreign ministers at a meeting in Brdo, Slovenia, on Thursday and Friday.
“Foreign Affairs continues to follow the situation consistently and closely,” said Wilmès in the press release. “We also continue to work with our partners to find solutions for the return of people under Belgian protection.”