The operation to repatriate Spanish nationals from Afghanistan got underway today, with the first flight from Kabul airport taking off at around 2pm CET. The A400M military plane sent by Spain was carrying between 50 and 100 people. The aim is to evacuate Spanish residents, the country’s diplomatic contingent, police officers and other security staff and the Afghan personnel who have worked for the armed forces in recent years.
Spain sent a first A400M aircraft for this mission from Zaragoza to Dubai on Monday night, and a second identical plane on Tuesday morning. The first flight arrived in Kabul earlier today, while the second is due to arrive in the coming hours.
Both planes will travel to Afghanistan “as many times as is necessary,” according to sources from the Spanish Foreign Ministry, in order to repatriate all of the Spaniards and Afghans who are on a list put together by the ministry itself. The operation has been put into place after the country was rapidly taken over by the Taliban since the withdrawal of United States troops.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced via Twitter today that a A400M medical plane would be joining the mission. The aircraft left the Madrid base in Torrejón de Ardoz this morning headed first for Dubai.
El primer avión español ya ha salido de Dubái rumbo a Kabul para evacuar al primer grupo de españoles y colaboradores en Afganistán.— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) August 18, 2021
Una tercera aeronave medicalizada de las Fuerzas Armadas ha salido esta mañana desde Madrid a Dubái para colaborar en las labores de repatriación. pic.twitter.com/gZ9SffRDyd
Meanwhile, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell expressed his gratitude on Tuesday for the offer that Spain has made in Brussels to coordinate the arrival in the EU of the Afghans who worked for the bloc’s institutions over recent years, as well as their families. Brussels has calculated that they will number between 380 and 400 people, and will be flown to Spain where they will be given international protection visas. From there, it will be decided in which EU states they will be given refugee status.
The initiative will also count on the support of Italy, according to Borrell, which has offered the aircraft needed for the flights, as well as France, which will offer security protection on the ground. Borrell also thanked these two countries for their assistance.
Based on reporting by Claudi Pérez, Paula Chouza, Bernardo de Miguel and Pilar Álvarez.
English version by Simon Hunter.