Hours of working in the Afghan heat, shooting and negotiating with the Taliban. This is what the evacuation of the Czech embassy and Afghan collaborators from Kabul looked like a year ago. 14 Military Police officers from the Kamba Protection Team and five employees of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Interior were honored for their work last Wednesday by the Military Police. Unit captain Zdenek Paul described it: “My entire military career, me and the boys, have been fully prepared for crises – and they have come.”
“We left all the weapons at al-Qaeda and the only brave man who could go to the Taliban kingdom and try to find someone there to negotiate with,” he added. narrated The captain of the Kabul Embassy Protection Team, known by the acronym KAMBA, Zdeněk Poul a year ago, shortly after his return from Afghanistan, in an interview with Radiožurnál.
Hear the full report on the awarding of the Military Police KAMPA team
I chose only three people sitting there wearing turbans. I figured it might be their leaders. When I explained to them on the list that I needed this family, they came to the second checkpoint and simply called the family,” Paul described.
It was he who negotiated with the Taliban, thanks to which it was possible to get a total of 130 Afghan collaborators with the Czech embassy and the army outside the airport gates.
Last Wednesday, exactly one year after the end of the twenty-year coalition operation in Afghanistan, Zdenek Paul and the 13 men he commanded in Kabul received an award from the head of the military police. In addition, five civil servants from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and the Interior who participated in the evacuations from the Prague headquarters were honored.
“For courage beyond official duties, dedication, high professionalism and decisiveness in saving human lives,” was heard at the opening ceremony held at the Czech Museum of Music in Prague, where the regional gendarmerie is based, that is, the ancestor of the current military police was located in the era of the First Republic.
With a concealed pistol he dealt with the Taliban to save people. “There was constant shooting,” says the captain of the protection team.
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The human dimension
The Kampa Military Police unit was responsible for the security of the Czech Embassy and the Ambassador in Kabul. However, when the Taliban entered the Afghan capital in mid-August last year, the Czech military police tried to protect the Afghans, against whom the Taliban could retaliate for their cooperation with the Czechs.
“They risked the fact that they wanted to save,” he praised the work of the Kabul embassy protection team, Defense Minister Jana Sernoshova (ODS), who also attended the award ceremony.
“The human dimension is perhaps the most powerful thing we get rid of. The fact that they didn’t care about their lives and were willing and willing to put it on the line for someone else who needed that help at that moment.”
“It’s very interesting,” Zdenek Pohl commented on the award, and immediately added that the evacuation was not his prerogative, but the whole team of people he led.
“Throughout my military career, the boys and I have been preparing for crises – and such a situation happened. We managed it perfectly. “
“We are Czechs and we will succeed,” Paul’s representative explains the success of the eviction.The name cannot be published for security reasons – Ed’s Note.). His task was to transport Ambassador Jerry Ballon to Kabul Airport. Meanwhile, Paul and part of the unit filtered sensitive documents at the embassy.
Then they followed the others to the airport, where the first evacuation lists of Afghan collaborators arrived from Prague. Created in Prague by the staff of the crisis management department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
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“Long night crisis teams, great tension and then relief when all is well come to mind,” says diplomat Veronika Kuchinova Semigolova, recalling the sharp days of last August.
She and her team collected the necessary information on the evacuees. Then they negotiated with the Department of Defense how to contact these people and what flights they should take.
“Our role was to coordinate. Our job was to get the right people on the right flights, to be in the right place at the right time,” explains Omigulova.
Other diplomats, Marketa Coles-Hakova and Monica Studina, add “improvisation, tension, exhaustion, then joy.” Ilyshka Segova also sat with them on the crisis management staff.
Get off the line
Military police officers nickname them “Winton Girls” – a reference to Nicholas Winton, who rescued nearly 700 mostly Jewish children from the Nazis from the occupied territories of Czechoslovakia. These women were also honored with an employee of the Ministry of Interior by the Military Police.
“Without them getting out of line, there will be no one to save,” confirmed the head of the Military Police, Otakar Folten, who has been at its head since July 1 this year. “The way they made the relevant operations work at the last minute is the best example of what Nicholas Winton did,” Fulton added, adding that a concerted military and civilian effort was the basis for the rescue from Kabul.
“And most powerfully, the evacuation was made possible by people who did not have to do what they did. The system did not ask them to, and they almost decided against the system, not with its support. These people did more than they had to because they felt that this was the moment when they had to act. “.
At the time, the Czechs were among the first countries to evacuate Afghan collaborators from Taliban-occupied Kabul. “I think other countries are starting to learn from us because the Italians, I think the Danes have tried it,” Paul recalls.
Boys and girls winton
In addition to the Afghan collaborators and their families, the Czechs also hired a senior representative of the Afghan judiciary, Lawyer Fahim, to safety.
“We were at the airport but couldn’t get to the gate, so the first plane left without us. Suddenly, a hundred meters from us, the Taliban started building their checkpoints” in the interview For iROZHLAS.cz, what it looked like in the crowd in front of the airport.
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You are stuck between a closed airport gate and the Taliban. Night was approaching, so I sent my wife and children home. The youngest son was only four days old.
Eventually, he, his wife, and children bypassed Taliban patrols. They spent another two nights at the airport before heading to Prague for the last Czech evacuation flight.
“Our boys and girls from Winton are true heroes for us and for the families of those who were rescued. They became them because they worked as a team and, in addition to their duties, also did what they did not have to do,” military police spokeswoman Katchina Melenkova summed up at the ceremony.
The Czech Military Police team eventually rescued 130 Afghans who had flown to the Czech Republic on two planes. The Czech military was able to evacuate another 40 co-workers and their families from the country with a third special military vehicle. According to the government at the time, the Czechs evacuated everyone they wanted to save.