A second flight sent by Spain left Kabul this morning headed for Dubai, as part of the ongoing operation to evacuate Spanish nationals and Afghans who have worked with the country’s authorities in recent years from Afghanistan, which has fallen into the hands of the Taliban.
According to government sources, around 110 people from Afghanistan were on the A400M aircraft. Speaking on the Cadena SER radio network on Friday morning, Foreign Affairs Minister José Manuel Albares confirmed that the evacuees were Afghans who worked with Spain and Afghan staff from the Spanish embassy. Among them are three families.
The situation is very complicated in Kabul right nowForeign Affairs Minister José Manuel Albares
Albares also explained that it is proving complicated to reach all of the personnel who have worked with Spain in recent years. “We are trying and we will continue, but it’s not easy,” he said. “Our determination to not leave anyone behind is not wavering.”
The minister added that it is impossible to say how long the operation will take, and that it is difficult to estimate how many people in total will have to be evacuated. “Until they are all out, we will be there,” he said. “The situation is very complicated in Kabul right now.”
A tweet published on Friday morning by the Spanish Defense Ministry showed the A400M plane once it had arrived in Dubai, from where it is due to travel to Spain.
Ya ha aterrizado el avión A400 del @EjercitoAire en Dubái procedente de Kabul. Ésta, con 110 personas, supone la segunda evacuación de Afganistán. Posteriormente, serán trasladados a Torrejón.— Ministerio Defensa (@Defensagob) August 20, 2021
On Saturday, the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, and the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, will accompany Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez on a visit to the air base at Torrejón de Ardoz, which is being used as an access point for evacuated Afghans who have worked with Spain or with European Union institutions. These latter asylum seekers will be distributed among EU member states after their arrival, with 50 due to be taken in by Spain.
Sánchez also confirmed the takeoff of the second flight via Twitter on Friday morning. Minister Albares on Friday stated that the prime minister “is leading” the operation in Afghanistan to rescue those who worked with the country on the ground. Albares told Cadena SER that he has “been in contact” with the head of the executive “from the first day” of the operation. Sánchez has been calling him “constantly,” he continued, and has been “giving him instructions” on the operation.
El segundo vuelo de repatriados ya está rumbo a Dubái.— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) August 20, 2021
Esta mañana, sobre las 06:30 horas, ha despegado desde el aeropuerto de Kabul el avión A400M de las Fuerzas Armadas en el que España está evacuando a otro grupo de 110 personas de Afganistán.
Opposition groups such as the conservative Popular Party (PP) have been critical of the Socialist Party (PSOE) leader, accusing him of remaining on his vacation in the Canary Island of Lanzarote during the crisis and also questioning why he has not made a public statement about the situation in Afghanistan.
The first A400M flight arrived on Spanish soil on Thursday morning at 4.30am at the Torrejón de Ardoz air base. It was carrying 53 people, five of whom were Spanish nationals. The rest were Afghans who had worked with Spain, some accompanied by their families, including a dozen or so children.
The arrivals are due to spend 72 hours on the air base before they are gradually distributed among the state shelter network or in the case of families, housed in apartments.
At least 18,000 people have left Afghanistan from the airport in Kabul since the Taliban took control of the capital city on Sunday, NATO sources have told news agency Reuters. The same sources reported that there are still crowds outside the airport, made up of people desperate to flee the country due to the collapse of the Afghan government.
English version by Simon Hunter.