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Belgium halts Afghanistan evacuation

Belgium has ended its operation to evacuate nationals and people with ties to Belgium from Afghanistan.  All staff and evacuees are being brought together in Islamabad (Pakistan).

On Wednesday five last evacuation flights were carried out between Kabul and Islamabad.  The end of operations comes after Taliban stopped a bus with Belgian evacuees.  Belgium says it’s halting the operation in consultation with its European partners and given the situation that is developing in Afghanistan.

By 21:30 Belgian time on Wednesday all staff and evacuees had been brought together in Islamabad.

VRT’s Inge Vrancken notes that as late as Wednesday afternoon Belgian defence spokesmen spoke of possible evacuation flights on Thursday.  She was also surprised to hear that all Belgian military too had now left the country.

VRT conflict journalist Rudi Vranckx has expressed surprise too: “It was clear the operation would end before the weekend, but this is sooner than expected.”

Vranckx believes consultations have been held at the European level: “The Belgian and Polish flights have stopped but the Dutch and French are continuing.  They will possibly take care of any Belgians who need help.”

Belgium evacuated 1,400 people from Kabul, but everybody who wanted to get out did not manage to do so.

“It’s getting more and more difficult to evacuate people from Kabul” says Inge Vrancken. “The Taliban are closing off the airport.  A second important access road was closed on Wednesday.  A joint convoy involving several countries was stopped.  These people didn’t get to the airport.”

The Taliban have already made it clear they wish Afghans to remain in the country.  Rudi Vranckx notes that behind the scenes there are discussions with the Americans about how to evacuate remaining Belgians and people with ties to Belgium. “Commercial flights may be used once these resume, because technically that is possible.  A lot depends on the Taliban. What will be their stand after 31 August?”

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