Kabul airport chaos among obstacles hampering Defence Force mission - PM

4:18 pm on 21 August 2021

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says New Zealand troops won't be able to rescue everyone they want to from Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Dr Ashley Bloomfield give the day two lockdown level 4 update on the current case news.

New Zealand is working closely with its partners in Afghanistan but the situation is not clearcut, Jacinda Ardern says. Photo: Pool / Getty

About 80 Defence Force troops left Auckland on Thursday to assist with evacuation efforts in the Middle East, following the Taliban's takeover.

It is hoped more than 50 New Zealand citizens and scores of Afghans who helped New Zealand's efforts there will be rescued.

NZ Defence Force personnel boarding a Hercules plane.

Photo: Supplied / Ministry of Defence

But Ardern said the rescue mission has been hampered by the chaos that has unfolded around the airport in Kabul.

There have been violent scenes as thousands hoping to flee the country try and pass through barricades being manned by Taliban members.

There are reports the Taliban has even blocked those with the necessary documents to travel.

Ardern told media attending the latest Covid-19 briefing in Wellington this afternoon the government was advised by officials at the time of the Defence Force plane's departure that scenes of chaos were possible.

However, New Zealand's role is to support its partners so they can all join forces on the evacuations.

"All the partners are working together - they won't just be bringing out their own people but often supporting others and we'll be a part of those efforts.

"But I'm concerned that because of the situation on the ground that we do need to start working on what the next stage will be because it does not look like we will get out everyone we wanted to get out."

Afghans crowd at the tarmac of the Kabul airport.

People trying to get to the airport earlier this week. Photo: AFP

There is a window that everyone is using but it is dependent on people having safe access to the airport and no country has been able to secure safe routes, she said.

New Zealand also has to make contact with some Afghan nationals who are from another province well away from Kabul.

"It's not an environment where anyone is picking or choosing - we're just doing our best."

Ardern said New Zealand troops were not deployed too late.

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