This morning, two Belgian Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft departed from the military airport of Melsbroek, Belgium, with destination Islamabad, Pakistan. On board, a consular and a preparation team, together with much-needed equipment and ammunition. A fuel stop is scheduled in Larnaca, Cyprus to refuel the aircraft for this 10-hour trip.
Yesterday a Falcon 7X aircraft arrived in Islamabad with a team preparing the further steps in the operation.
Later this afternoon, the new Airbus A400M will depart with destination Larnaca, Cyprus, with a detachment of about 15 military personnel before continuing to Islamabad. This aircraft can transport 100 passengers.
The C-130s will provide the tactical airlift between Islamabad and Kabul. The A400M can carry more passengers and will therefore remain in Islamabad to conduct strategic repatriation flights from there.
At the moment, this initially concerns about a hundred people with Belgian nationality who are in or around Kabul. They had to register at the Belgian embassy in Pakistan, which is also responsible for Afghanistan. In addition, it is not yet known who or how many people will ultimately have to be evacuated.
The evacuation mission has been scheduled for Friday morning. “In total, about eighty soldiers are deployed in this mission,” Colonel Geert De Decker explains to the press.
Once landed, the aircraft have to wait for permission to fly to Kabul, Afghanistan: “We have been given four different time slots on Friday morning,” Colonel De Decker says, “they are now on their way for a stopover because those C130 cannot make the flight in one go. They will land tomorrow in Islamabad to fly to Kabul on Friday morning.”
“We also don’t know yet whether we will be able to evacuate people from Kabul with that first flight, that will depend on the contacts that the people of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been able to make with the people on-site,” De Decker concludes.
On Monday afternoon, the “Kern” cabinet decided to deploy three Defense transport aircraft for the evacuation of Belgians, their family members, Afghan employees such as interpreters and fixers and women’s and human rights activists.
Non-combatant evacuation operations (NEO) are among the most important tasks of the Ministry of Defence. People and resources of the Land and Air Components are permanently ready to leave to evacuate non-combatants from crisis areas. NEO exercises are therefore an important part of the annual training calendar of the units involved. In this way, the Defence organisation can respond appropriately when there is a demand for operational deployment from the Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs.