JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com – An Indonesian Air Force Boeing military aircraft carrying 26 Indonesian nationals from Afghanistan landed in Halim Perdanakusuma Air Force Base in Jakarta at 3:00 am local time on Saturday, August 21.
The evacuation mission also extracted seven foreigners comprising five Filipino citizens and two Afghan nationals. One Afghan national is the husband of an Indonesian citizen, and the other one is a local staff at the Indonesian Embassy in Kabul.
Due to the dynamic circumstances on the ground, the evacuation was done in a secret and careful mission as planned by the Air Force and the government.
“The evacuation process performs extraordinary diligence to ensure the safety of Indonesian citizens and other evacuees and for the smooth running of the overall evacuation mission,” said Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi upon the arrival of the aircraft at Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base.
Initially, the secret evacuation mission was going to involve a civilian aircraft. But, the Boeing 737-400 military aircraft from the 17th Air Squadron was then chosen due to the dynamic circumstances in Kabul.
The aircraft flew from Jakarta on Wednesday, August 18. It made several stops, including Colombo, Karachi, and Islamabad before reaching Kabul.
The plane stayed overnight in Islamabad, Pakistan as planned. The decision was taken because the duration of the flight from Islamabad to Kabul will only take place in an hour. The evacuation team had coordinated with the relevant officials before landing at Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul. The plane landed in Kabul on early Friday at 5:17 am local time as the initial plan to land a day before was no go due to unconducive circumstances. Upon arrival in Kabul, the mission again faced dynamic circumstances so that the evacuation process did not go as planned.
“According to the initial plan, the aircraft was scheduled to stop for only 30 minutes but due to the dynamic circumstances, it stopped for about two hours at Kabul airport,” said Retno.
The military aircraft was finally able to depart Kabul at 07:10 am local time and it arrived in Islamabad at 08:11 am local time to refueling and continuing on its homeward journey.
“Alhamdulillah [praise be to God] the Indonesian Air Force aircraft has arrived at Halim Perdanakusuma Airport this morning, August 21,” said Retno.
She then went on to say that the operation of the Indonesian Embassy in Kabul has temporarily been moved to Islamabad in Pakistan. Initially, the government decided that the activities of the Indonesian Embassy would remain in Kabul. However, the situation on the ground made the government withdraw the plan.
“Initially, a small team of key personnel from the Foreign Ministry would continue carrying out our mission in Kabul. However, during the evacuation process, new developments took place. The situation made us operate the mission from Islamabad for the time being,” said Retno.
She further added the team comprised chargé d'affaires and three home staff. “The small team will continue to monitor the situation in Afghanistan every day before taking the next steps,” said the minister.