Spain has begun the repatriation of Spanish citizens and their Afghan collaborators - trapped by the rise to power of the Taliban after the withdrawal of international troops - from Kabul's international airport.
On Wednesday, a Spanish Air Force plane, the long-distance A400M transport aircraft, landed in the early afternoon at the Hamid Karzai airfield in the Afghan capital from Dubai, where it returned hours later and this Thursday (19 August) it touched down in Madrid at 4.30am. Spain's Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares met the flight on arrival.
The first flight of the operation, coordinated by the Defence and Foreign ministries carried about 75 passengers, including members of the diplomatic delegation, security forces and Afghan employees and their families. The evacuation of personnel is expected to continue this Thursday if normality is maintained at the Kabul airfield, thanks to the pact reached by the US command, responsible for air traffic, with the Taliban.
The evacuation plan consists of boarding groups of less than a hundred people on each flight until the list managed by the Spanish authorities is completed, so the extraction will last several more days.
The acting ambassador, Gabriel Ferran, who left his post on 5 August, will remain in the city until the end of the operation, and will leave on the last plane.
In addition to the 25 embassy employees and the half dozen Spanish residents, the main difficulty will be coordinating the departure of collaborators from the Spanish missions in the provinces of Herat and Badghis. Many of them have not yet made it to Kabul or are still hiding in the capital without having reached the airport. At first, this group of collaborators and relatives was estimated to be 400 people but it has grown to at least 500.
Following an agreement with Brussels, the Spanish military planes will also be used to evacuate Afghan aid workers from other EU member states. These people will be temporarily housed at the Torrejón de Ardoz air base in Madrid before being distributed among the European countries. The cost will be borne by the EU, which will also take care of the transfers to their final destinations: Germany, France or Italy.