Lithuania is talking with other countries about airlifting Afghans who worked with Lithuanian troops out of Kabul, says Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis, but it is “difficult”.
A total of 115 interpreters have assisted Lithuanian troops during their mission in Afghanistan. The Foreign Ministry have previously said that around 100 Afghans could be evacuated to Lithuania.
“We have reached out to virtually all countries that organise flights to Kabul. We have talked to everyone. Well, the situation is difficult,” Minister Landsbergis told reporters on Wednesday.
“To give you one example, yesterday I spoke to the Spanish foreign minister and we agreed that they had vacant seats in several planes landing in Kabul. Once they landed, suddenly there were fewer seats left,” he said.
Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas told LRT TV on Tuesday that the government had had a plan to evacuate Afghan interpreters, but it was thwarted when the Taliban took over the capital Kabul quicker than expected.
“As to the changed plans, I can say that we really tried. When the process with the Afghan interpreters was still moving forward, we did not disclose the details so as not to jeopardise the preparations. Our original plans included a flight from Kabul to Lithuania in late August, because all the migration procedures had not been completed,” he said.
Lithuania planned to send its Spartan military plane to evacuate interpreters from Afghanistan, according to Anušauskas.
On Wednesday, the defence minister told reporters that sending the aircraft was no longer considered, because it was not “the plane that could bring so many people”.
“Intermediate landings would be needed, but not all intermediate landings are possible,” he said.
In mid-June, 12 interpreters who had aided Lithuanian troops in Afghanistan's Ghor province between 2005 and 2013 wrote an open letter to the Lithuanian president, the prime minister and the ministers for defence and interior affairs.
In the letter, they said they were being threatened because of their cooperation with the Lithuanians.
Foreign Minister Landsbergis then said that Lithuania would provide asylum to the interpreters and translators who had aided the country's troops.
The last Lithuanian soldiers returned from Afghanistan in late June after NATO decided to withdraw from the 20-year conflict.