German helicopters ready to join Kabul airlifts, Italy says it evacuated nearly 1,000 Afghans over last 5 days

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BERLIN/THE HAGUE/MILAN/BUCHAREST: Two small German military helicopters that were sent to Kabul in a move coordinated with the United States had been assembled and were ready for action on Saturday, German officials said.
The idea is to use them in Kabul if individual evacuees need to be picked up by helicopter and brought to the airport. But Germany’s top military commander, Gen. Eberhard Zorn, said there is no concrete plan yet for their deployment.
“The situation remains difficult at the gates of the airport in the Afghan capital. The number of people German planes have taken out has varied,” Zorn said.
A German flight arrived in Tashkent on Friday night with 172 evacuees on board, but two subsequent flights – also with an Airbus A400M – carried only seven and eight people respectively.
Defence minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Germany so far has evacuated nearly 2,000 people. “The situation is difficult, but with our capabilities and everything that comes up on the ground, we will keep on taking out as many as possible,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Dutch defence ministry says that the first group of Afghans evacuated from Kabul on military transport planes has arrived in the northern Netherlands that has been transformed into a temporary accommodation centre.
The ministry said Friday that a group of 28 Afghans has been taken to the centre in Zoutcamp, a small village, some 180 km north of Amsterdam.
Dutch authorities say they have so far managed five flights out of Kabul with nearly 300 passengers. It is not clear how many of them were Afghans.
The Dutch government is seeking to evacuate Afghan nationals and their families who worked for the country’s military during its deployment and for the embassy as well as staff at aid projects.
On the other hand, Italy says its military has evacuated nearly 1,000 Afghan citizens out of Kabul over the last five days.
The defence ministry said that two flights carrying 207 Afghans arrived Saturday in Rome from Kuwait, which Italy is using as a staging ground for the Kabul evacuations.
Italy has deployed more than 1,500 servicemen and women to operate an airbridge from Kabul to Kuwait aboard four C130J aircraft, and to ferry evacuees to safety in Italy aboard four KC767s.
Italy began what it has dubbed Operation Aquila Omnia in June, bringing to safety 1,532 Afghan citizens to date. Eighty, including 33 women, arrived on Saturday at a base in South Tyrol, northern Italy, for a 10-day Covid quarantine.
In a video distributed by the ministry, an Afghan man who was brought to the base thanked “the Italian armed forces, who didn’t leave us alone in Afghanistan. With all the difficulty, they brought us away”.
Without facing the camera, he said the journey took two days. “We are tired. We are happy. We are now in a safe country,” he said, also expressing hope that one day “if Afghanistan becomes safe, we can return to our country.”
Meanwhile, Romania’s foreign ministry says that a military aircraft has evacuated 14 Romanian citizens and four Bulgarians from Kabul airport to Islamabad.
It said in a statement Friday evening that another Romanian citizen, a United Nations employee, could not reach Kabul airport because of security issues, adding that it will look to partner states to identify possible evacuation options.
Authorities said the evacuees were assisted on arrival by Romanian Embassy staff in Pakistan. It was Romania’s third evacuation flight this week using a C-130 Hercules military aircraft.
The ministry also said that it has “validated and contacted” a number of Afghan citizens who collaborated with its troops during their mission in Afghanistan who have expressed a wish to be evacuated to Romania.
But the “extremely difficult” security situation around Kabul airport meant that none of the Afghan citizens could reach the airport. “In their case”, the ministry said “(we) will continue to act to identify evacuation options”.


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