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Afghanistan: Irish citizens wait for rescue mission

Afghanistan: Irish citizens wait for rescue mission

A total of 24 Irish citizens and 12 dependants are awaiting news from a team of Irish diplomats supported by Army Rangers at Kabul airport.

The team of nine soldiers and two Department of Foreign Affairs officials are expected to arrive in Kabul later.

The Irish foreign minister said 10 Irish citizens have left Afghanistan.

“The real challenge here is how do we get people out safely – in particular families that involve children,” he said.

Simon Coveney said that the 36 people remaining were still outside the perimeter of the airport and getting into the airport through crowds who are “tense and aggressive” and where there have been fatalities in recent days was a real challenge.

Speaking to BBC NI’s Good Morning Ulster on Tuesday, he denied claims that the decision to send out a team from the Republic of Ireland was “last minute” and “too little, too late.”

“We’ve been planning this for days,” he said.

“Until now, the judgement was that working with partners was the most effective way to get Irish citizens out.

“All Irish citizens in Afghanistan are getting regular updates, in some cases on an hourly basis.

“But my judgement is that having people on the ground makes sense in the final days of what is a challenging situation.”

The minister said the team of diplomats had been given a clear instruction not to leave Kabul airport.

He said they would be coordinating with partners who have been in Afghanistan a lot longer.

Everybody wanted more time to get their people out, he said.

“After 31 August, if the airport is no longer in control of the US or Western forces, our consular team will continue to work but we won’t have people on the ground in Kabul airport, nobody will have.”

It was reported last week that the Republic of Ireland needed to evacuate 36 of its citizens from the country.

At that stage, Mr Coveney said sending Irish military personal would “complicate, rather than simplify things”.

He had said there were agreements with other countries to make space for Irish citizens.

Cathal Berry, an independent TD in the Dáil (Irish parliament) and former Irish Defence Forces officer, told Good Morning Ulster on Tuesday that it was “a chaotic picture”.

He said the issue was not the number of seats available to fly people out of Kabul airport, it was about people getting to the airport.

“The checkpoints are very, very sticky in relation to getting people through,” he said.

“We are constantly getting contacted by mobile phone from people who are being beaten or they can see the checkpoint ahead but literally can’t proceed towards the airport.”

On the imposed deadline of 31 August to leave Afghanistan, Mr Berry said: “I believe it shouldn’t be time specific, it should be objective specific.

“If the objective is to extract our people, we should stay within reason for as long as possible to get our people out.”

Speaking about the Irish response, Mr Berry called for a contingency plan to be put in place.

“The reality is that we should have an intergovernmental multi-agency approach to this,” said.

“There is a lot of expertise there … we just need a singular document probably about 20 pages long, with the plan in place, we can dust it off the shelf when these things kick in and stand people up immediately.”

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