Luxembourg struggles in Kabul rescue mission
By Douwe Miedema and Kate Oglesby
Luxembourg’s mission to rescue people from Afghanistan is facing obstacles, as residents are blocked from getting into Kabul airport by Taliban forces, and military planes leave empty.
The Grand Duchy is attempting to shuttle hundreds of people out of Kabul in a joint rescue operation with Belgium. It will use its massive A400M military transport plane to get people from Islamabad back to Brussels or to Luxembourg, with two Belgian C130 transport planes shuttling between Kabul and the Pakistani capital.
“We are well aware of the fact there are six Luxembourgers out there who need to get on a plane,” Belgian ambassador Thomas Lambert told the Luxembourg Times. “It’s very high on our radar. What we can do, we will do.”
Among the evacuees are four Luxembourgers and two Afghans living in Luxembourg, who are blocked the gates of Kabul airport by the Taliban, Luxembourg broadcaster RTL reported on Friday evening.
Three Belgian consuls, responsible for determining who is allowed to be brought over, are on the ground in Kabul, Lambert said. Two C130 flights have in the meantime returned to Islamabad, one empty, the other with an estimated 60 people on board.
Lambert described a bottleneck at the airport, with two or three access points, controlled by Taliban forces, as well as a perimeter of people wanting to leave. Added to this, military planes have to adhere to a strict and limited timetable to come into the airport and fly back out.
“You’re given a 30-minute time slot [by the US],” Lambert said. “Within that slot, you need to land and take off … the plane needs to arrive with the engines running, and then everybody who has been processed needs to get on board really hurriedly… the effective time for boarding people is maybe 15 minutes.”