Rome: NATO head Jens Stoltenberg this week awarded Ambassador Stefano Pontecorvo, the alliance’s Senior Civilian Representative to Afghanistan, with a medal for his contribution to the evacuation mission from the Central Asian country.
“Secretary General @jensstoltenberg awarded the #NATO Meritorious Service Medal to our Senior Civilian Representative @pontecorvoste & his team for their service in #Afghanistan & the tireless efforts to coordinate the challenging evacuation from #Kabul airport,” NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu tweeted.
Ambassador Pontecorvo left Afghanistan on August 28 on the last Italy-operated evacuation flight to Rome.
Overall, the US and coalition efforts have resulted in the evacuation of more than 123,000 civilians out of the country following the Taliban (a terrorist group, banned in Russia) takeover on August 15, according to Washington.
The United States completed the pullout of its troops from Afghanistan on August 31 the deadline for evacuation operations set by the movement. The airport in the Afghan capital of Kabul, whence foreign evacuation flights departed to their home countries, is now controlled by the Taliban.
“Thank you to NATO SG @jenstoltenberg for this recognition. Proud to have been at the forefront of #NATO efforts in this challenging period. Thank you to my extraordinary team and to the NATO community for the collective effort,” tweeted Ambassador Pontecorvo after receiving the medal.
Ambassador Pontecorvo said those involved in the evacuation crossed the line between possible and impossible to get everybody they could out of the country.
“We have left a few behind which we are not abandoning but we will strive our best to take back home,” he told reporters.
Italian military planes have taken more than 4,800 Afghans out of the country as of Aug. 27, including more than 1,400 children, the defense ministry has said.
Foreign minister Luigi Di Maio praised Italian diplomats and military officials for their contribution to the evacuations of the civilians. “We have evacuated more Afghan nationals than any other European Union country,” he said.