TD says Rangers had to 'hitch hike' to Kabul, calls for State to buy aircraft

ireland
Td Says Rangers Had To 'Hitch Hike' To Kabul, Calls For State To Buy Aircraft
Dr Berry was commenting on the decision by the Government to send a small consular team with a military escort to Kabul airport to aid in the evacuation. Picture: Getty Images
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Vivienne Clarke

Independent TD Dr Cathal Berry, who is also a former second-in-command of the Irish Army’s Ranger wing, has called for funding for autonomous aircraft for the Irish Defence Forces.

It reflected badly that Ireland had to “hitch hike” around the world, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland. It appeared as if Ireland was a “freeloader”, he added.

Dr Berry was commenting on the decision by the Government to send a small consular team with a military escort to Kabul airport to aid in the evacuation.

Air capability

Ireland had no independent air capability which made it very difficult to get troops into a war zone if required, he said. The State was paying “vast sums” to book air support services ad hoc, it would be better to purchase its own aircraft.

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Dr Berry welcomed the decision to send the “small discrete” mission to Kabul, which he had suggested last week. They will make a significant difference on the ground in Kabul, he said.

The issue was processing Irish citizens and getting people onto aircraft and getting them into the airport. Their main role would be liaison. They would also provide medical, security, snipers and secure communications back to headquarters in Dublin.

The mission would be challenging, said Dr Berry, but well within the capabilities of the Rangers. There was never zero risk, the mission was still a blank canvas.

Ireland had a responsibility to the Afghan people with whom various garda and army deployments had worked between 2003 and 2016, he said. While the number of Irish due to be evacuated was 36 at present, that figure could rise, he said.

Meanwhile, Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney has said that having an Irish team on the ground in Kabul will maximise the opportunities to get Irish citizens out of Afghanistan.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast, Mr Coveney said that the situation in Kabul was fluid. “On balance this is the right thing to do.”

Of the 24 Irish passport holders, plus their 12 dependents, many were of Afghan origin which made it more difficult to get them through the crowds outside the airport, he explained.

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“We are committed to them.”

The fact that many of the groups were family units made getting them out together more challenging.

“We have places on planes for all these people.”

There has been a lot of cooperation between other EU countries, the UK and the US in relation to flights. The real challenge was how to get the people from where they were now to the airport. Many were in hiding, and it was difficult getting through Taliban checkpoints and the large crowds at the airport.

If a window of opportunity opens up, we will have people on the ground. It is a risk worth taking.

“We are trying to work with the US who run the airport. The UK has been really helpful on this, they are coordinating points around the airport and have been offering to help Irish citizens.”

Having the Rangers and diplomats on the ground will help, he said. “If a window of opportunity opens up, we will have people on the ground. It is a risk worth taking.”

Highly skilled

Mr Coveney said that the Irish Ranger wing was the best at what they did and were among the best in the world. They had trained with their counterparts from other countries and were highly skilled which was why they had been deployed to Kabul.

Unless US President Joe Biden changes his mind today on the deadline for withdrawal from Kabul, which was set for August 31st, it would be a matter of days to get the 36 people out of Afghanistan, said Mr Coveney.

It would be a “short targeted deployment. It’s the right thing to do.”

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