Sending Irish Army Rangers and officials to Afghanistan to help evacuate the remaining Irish citizens there is a risk worth taking, according to the Foreign Affairs Minister.
Nine members of the elite special forces wing are expected to arrive in Kabul this evening alongside two diplomats.
Their mission is to help 36 people - 24 Irish citizens and 12 of their family members - make their way through Kabul and into the airport.
They are expected to do so by liaising with military officials from the US, UK and a number of EU countries who are already in-place in Kabul.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, the Foreign Affairs Minister Simon Coveney said the decision to send the Irish personnel was not without risk – but insisted it was the right thing to do.
“The Ranger Wing are the best at what they do, arguably anywhere in the world,” he said.
“People might be surprised to hear that given the fact that Irish Defence Forces personnel don’t normally go into theatres of war but the Army Ranger wing train with counterparts in to other countries and are very highly skilled in terms of managing security so that is why they have joined the diplomats that are going as well
“So, we have done everything we can to manage the personal security of the teams that are travelling and of course we have very strong partnerships with other countries which gives us options in terms of getting out.”
"Right thing to do"
He said the Government had to decide whether the benefits of the mission outweighed the risk to the Irish personnel.
“We have made the judgement call that sending a team is the right thing to do and I think the team we are sending are skilled and experienced and I expect them to come home in the next few days,” he said.
He said the remaining Irish citizens in the country are Afghan-Irish, which can make it more difficult to evacuate them.
“They are Irish citizens and we are absolutely committed to them but the reason it is more complicated for them is because firstly, they are part of family units we have to try and get out together and secondly, because they are Afghan as well as Irish it is more difficult in many ways to get them through the crowd and into the airport.”
He said there are places on planes for all 36 of the citizens left in the country; however, the difficulty now is getting them into the airport itself.
“The real challenge is how people get from where they are at the moment - whether that is in an apartment or a home somewhere in Kabul; whether they are hiding or not - and getting actually in to the airport,” he said.
“Getting them through the Taliban checks and then - which is the most difficult - getting through large crowds and a lot of crushing and tempers flaring and so on around the perimeter of the airport because, of course, lots and lots of people want to get in.”
He said he expected the mission to last days rather than weeks.
“This is a short, targeted deployment that I think will give us a lot of extra access on the ground in terms of trying to get people who are desperate to leave Afghanistan out and I think it is the right thing to do,” he said.
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