Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag quits over Afghanistan chaos

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Image source, EPA
Image caption, Sigrid Kaag said she accepted the government acted irresponsibly

Dutch Foreign Minister Sigrid Kaag has resigned over her handling of the Afghan evacuation crisis last month.

She is the first Western government official to step down over the chaos that followed the Taliban takeover.

Dutch MPs had passed a motion of censure against her, saying the government was too slow to respond and left behind many Afghans who should have been able to flee.

Ms Kaag said she stood by her actions but accepted the MPs' verdict.

Speaking in parliament on Thursday, she acknowledged the government had been slow and muddled when reacting to warnings about a surge of the Taliban.

Her cabinet colleague, Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld, was also censured but waited almost 24 hours before announcing she too was stepping down. She said she had wanted to continue working for the men and women on the front line, but felt that her post had now become a topic for debate and she could no longer do so.

The Netherlands managed to evacuate around 2,000 people from Afghanistan in the last two weeks of August.

But hundreds of local staff and people who had worked as interpreters with Dutch troops were left behind.

Ms Kaag admitted the government had acted on the basis of "wrong assumptions", but insisted the Taliban's rapid rise to power had stunned everyone, "including the Taliban itself".

Despite this, Ms Kaag told parliament the MPs' vote left her with no choice but to step down from her post.

"Parliament has judged that the cabinet has not acted responsibly," Ms Kaag said. "The minister must go if the policy is rejected."

Ms Kaag remains the leader of the liberal D66 party, and steered it to second place in elections last March. She is due to take part in weekend talks on forming a new coalition government. A former diplomat, she told MPs on Thursday that foreign affairs was her passion and her role as foreign minister a vocation.

However, she was not expected to travel to London with Prime Minister Mark Rutte on Friday for talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Sigrid Kaag is the first foreign minister to resign over the fallout of the Taliban's takeover.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, who was heavily criticised for remaining on holiday as Kabul fell to the militants, was replaced in a government reshuffle this week.

Media caption, Brigadier James Martin speaks about the UK's evacuation operation from Afghanistan

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