Afghanistan: Crowd appears to board plane in Kabul
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Sir Laurie Bristow is understood to be at Kabul airport working alongside a small team of diplomats doing everything they can to help as many people as possible leave the country. As a frantic struggle continues to get UK nationals and local allies out of the country, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has admitted “some people won’t get back”.
With the Taliban now in control of the Afghan capital, there is a race against time to evacuate interpreters and other locals who helped British forces in combat efforts against the extremists.
Around 4,000 British nationals and eligible Afghans are thought to be in the city and in need of evacuation.
Sir Laurie was originally expected to be flown out of Kabul last night but is understood to have remained in the post to help diplomats.
A spokesperson for the Foreign and Commonwealth Development Office said: “We have reduced our diplomatic presence in response to the situation on the ground.
“However our Ambassador remains in Kabul and UK Government staff continue to work to provide assistance to British nationals and to our Afghan staff.
“We are doing all we can to enable remaining British nationals, who want to leave Afghanistan, to do so.”
His decision to remain is in stark contrast to other allied nations who appeared to abandon Kabul as the Taliban moved in.
The US ambassador was flown back to America yesterday, fleeing the country with his national flag.
President Biden has since curtailed the number of flights to the US for Afghans who worked alongside American troops.
Despite the US Departments of Defense and State saying yesterday that they would “accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for US Special Immigrant Visas (SIV)” the last flight for SIV applicants has left the country.
The pause in flights for Afghan nationals comes as the US looks to prioritise removing US personnel.
Meanwhile, a spokesman for the German Defense Ministry suggested Berlin was turning its back on those who had helped its troops over the past 20 years.
A spokesperson told the Frankfurter Allgemeine newspaper it had no responsibility to help Afghans escape.
They said: “It’s not like we forced them to cooperate with us.”
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The UK is hoping to help remove 1,500 people over the next 24 to 36 hours.
Mr Wallace said the Government sent over 600 military personnel to Kabul to assist with the effort yesterday.
He told BBC Breakfast: “Our flights, our planning and coming in and out and soon if we manage to keep it in the way we’re planning to, we should have capacity for over 1,000 people a day to exit to the UK.
“Currently this is not about capacity on planes, it’s about processing speed, so that’s why we’re trying to fix that.”
Mr Wallace added: “Our timescale which we’d originally planned, which was August 31, will be out.
“We will try our very best to get everyone out, it’s one of the biggest regrets of the speed of the collapse of the Afghan government is that those timetables will no doubt have to be shortened and that’s what we’re moving extra assets to do.”
Mr Wallace, who served in the Scots Guards, appeared to choke up while giving media interviews this morning.
Becoming emotional, he said: “It’s a really deep part of regret for me.
“Look, some people won’t get back.
“Some people won’t get back and we will have to do our best in third countries to process those people.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last night pledged to get Afghan nationals who had helped UK troops out of the country “as fast as we can”.
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