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Second Dutch minister resigns over Afghan refugee evacuation disaster

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Dutch Defence Minister Ank Bijleveld resigned on Friday over her handling of the Afghan evacuation crisis in a widening scandal that has also claimed the job of the foreign minister.

Bijleveld had originally refused to quit but finally bowed to pressure after parliament formally censured her over a debacle that has left dozens of interpreters stranded in Afghanistan.

“I informed my party and prime minister that I will ask the king to receive my resignation,” Bijleveld told reporters at the defence ministry, referring to Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte.

“I don’t want to get in the way of the important work” of her colleagues who are still trying to get people out of Afghanistan, she added.

Dutch foreign minister Sigrid Kaag resigned on Thursday after she too was condemned by parliament over the government’s failure to evacuate some Afghans, and for missing signs of an imminent Taliban takeover.

Kaag resigned immediately after motions of disapproval against both ministers were adopted. She defended her handling of the crisis but admitted the government had some “blind spots” about the situation that the Netherlands shared with other countries.

Bijleveld at first said she would remain, but reconsidered a day later following heavy criticism from members of her own Christian Democrats party.

The Dutch ministers are some of the first Western officials to quit and take responsibility for the chaos between the Taliban’s takeover of Kabul on August 15 and the pullout of US forces on August 31.

Their resignations come after Britain’s Dominic Raab was demoted from his position as foreign minister over the way he dealt with the situation in Afghanistan.

However the impact on the Dutch political system could be limited as the current cabinet is a caretaker administration, with the country still waiting for talks to produce a new coalition government six months after elections.

Bijleveld is the sixth minister to leave office since Rutte’s government was brought down by a childcare subsidies scandal in January.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)

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