Rescue Plane Left Afghanistan With Just One Passenger Aboard

The Japanese government is under scrutiny for ordering the withdrawal of military aircraft on Tuesday after having rescued just one of the 500 people it had intended to evacuate from Afghanistan.

Japan's Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi made the call to pull out three Japan Air Self-Defense Force cargo planes in light of the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Kabul on Monday and the inability to guarantee safe landings, according to a Kyodo News report.

Tokyo said evacuation plans are ongoing, but the remaining Japanese nationals as well as embassy and NGO staff may need to leave Afghanistan by other means such as commercial airlines, the outlet said.

One C-2 and two C-130 JASDF cargo planes were dispatched from Japan last week in the hope of rescuing some 500 people, including hundreds of Afghan citizens working at the Japanese Embassy in Kabul and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

But a lone Japanese national was the only person to be airlifted to Islamabad in neighboring Pakistan on Friday after the others were unable to reach the airport, which is now under the control of Taliban security forces.

An Asahi Shimbun report the following day said the rescue was complicated by Taliban-manned checkpoints and the deteriorating security environment around the airport following a deadly terror attack that left more than 180 people dead, among them 13 members of the U.S. military.

Last Thursday, the JASDF evacuated 14 at-risk Afghan citizens to Pakistan at the request of the United States. The individuals—members of the former government—weren't on Japan's list of 500.

Kyodo News identified the Japanese national who left via a C-130 as 57-year-old Hiromi Yasui, a local business owner in Kabul who also worked as a stringer for the news agency.

Criticism From Media and Politicians

The Japanese government faces scrutiny and criticism for its response from local and foreign media and politicians. Some critics are saying the evacuation was poorly planned and too little, too late.

At a press conference on Tuesday, Japan's Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi said: "The provision of assistance for Japan-related evacuation seekers remains a task of utmost importance."

He defended the government's timing, citing "rapidly changing situations" on the ground in Afghanistan, according to Kyodo News.

Japan hasn't confirmed the exact number of its nationals who remain in the country, but the figure is low and includes those who don't wish to leave, the report said.

The last American troops left Kabul late on Monday local time to meet the August 31 deadline. The U.S. Embassy in Kabul suspended its operations on Tuesday and transferred its services to Doha, Qatar, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

Blinken said the U.S. was continuing to facilitate the evacuation of "under 200" citizens who remain in Afghanistan.

Japan Continues Evacuations Plans From Afghanistan
A Japan Air Self-Defense Force C-130 plane departs from the JASDF's Iruma base near the city of Sayama, Saitama Prefecture, to evacuate Japanese nationals from Afghanistan on August 24, 2021. STR/JIJI PRESS/AFP via Getty Images

Correction 9/17/21: This article was updated to correct the spelling of Antony Blinken.