The Dutch evacuation in Kabul has ended. The last Dutch flight left the Afghan capital, outgoing Foreign Minister Sigrid Kag said. Ambassadors Cecilia Wiggers (Afghanistan) and Michael Rentnar (Iraq) traveled with the last evacuation flight. who are they?
On board, among others, are diplomats and soldiers who have recently worked from the airport. “It is horrible to have to leave Afghanistan after 20 years in this way,” Kag wrote on Twitter. With a sad heart, the embassy team and the army left on their last Dutch trip.”
Kaag admits that the departure of the Dutch has “serious consequences” for people who have not yet been brought to safety. The obligation to assist all those entitled to return or evacuate remains with international allies and continue to support the Afghan people.
Outgoing Defense Minister Ank Bielefeld said he had “mixed feelings” about the last evacuation flight leaving Kabul. “We see horrific reports of attacks,” the minister said.
Baked and tried
If anyone can get the label “tried and tested in a crisis zone,” it’s Michelle Rentnar (59). The ambassador, who is based in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, traveled this week to assist the ambassador to Afghanistan, Cecilia Wiggers, in Kabul.
Afghanistan is not an unknown country to him. Between 2009 and 2010 he served as a diplomat in Uruzgan. In an interview last October, he said, the tenant can “handle the risk” The password when he was in Iraq. “I keep very calm. We have good training for that too. You learn to keep yourself calm. With breathing exercises. By trusting your security guards.”
Rentnar has previously worked in Egypt, Yemen, the Palestinian Territories, Lebanon and Uganda. In 2011, he was also said to have helped evacuate five Dutch journalists who were trapped in their hotel in Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Because of the riots they could not leave. They were taken to safety by the embassy with two jeeps.
Rentnar calls himself a “philanthropist.” In his youth – he grew up in Amsterdam – it was not clear that he would become a diplomat. Rentner was active within the Dutch Communist Party (CPN), the student union LSVb and the anti-apartheid movement. In the end, he went to the Foreign Affairs “class” because he “wanted to make a difference.”
Wijgers, 54, has also lived and worked in Afghanistan before. In 2012, she worked as a consultant for the Dutch Police Training Mission in Kunduz. She has been ambassador to Kabul for less than a year. Because this post is considered dangerous – just like Baghdad, for example – the Wijgers and their deputy change every few weeks. That’s why she was in Holland when the Taliban captured Kabul. All Dutch embassy staff left on an evacuation flight before returning with an emergency consular team and about sixty soldiers.
The conditions in which Wijgers worked were difficult. Communication was difficult due to no or poor internet, there were no facilities at the airport and we had to sleep on mats on the floor. Before Rintner was flown in, Wiggers didn’t even sleep a few hours a night, Deputy Secretary-General Carola van Regensweaver of the State Department told this site earlier.
Wijgers have less experience in crisis areas. She has worked in Lithuania, Pakistan, Burkina Faso and Ghana. From 2018 to 2020, she was ambassador to Burundi, the country I spoke to in an interview Gelderlander It is called “Switzerland of Africa”. I felt safe there. “Afghanistan was a different story.”
However, she feels at home on “tough” pitches, a fellow ambassador stated this week at Volkskrant. “We find working in developing countries and conflict areas much more interesting, because as a diplomat you are really making a difference there.”
Leaving Kabul now will make her sad. “Once you get on board, you stay on board,” she said at the end of June at the closing ceremony of the Dutch military mission in Afghanistan. She added, “As long as the situation permits.”
Watch our videos on the situation in Afghanistan in the playlist below:
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