More than 10,000 evacuated in UK airlift from Afghanistan, says Boris Johnson

Final scramble to leave Kabul after Joe Biden confirmed 31 August deadline for US troop withdrawal

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Wednesday 25 August 2021 09:44 BST
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Louise Thomas

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The number of people evacuated from Afghanistan by British troops has topped 10,000 over the past 13 days, Boris Johnson has announced.

The figure was passed as president Joe Biden triggered a final desperate scramble to leave the country by refusing to budge on his 31 August deadline for the withdrawal of US troops.

It is thought that as little as 48 hours may remain for evacuation flights before the priority of the UK operation switches to getting the 1,000 strong British military contingent, diplomats and other officials out of the country.

The prime minister paid tribute to the work of UK servicemen on the airlift from Kabul airport which began on 13 August as Taliban militants closed on the Afghan capital.

“British forces are working tirelessly to support the evacuation operation in Kabul,” said Mr Johnson.

“10,291 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since 13 August, more than 5,500 of which are Afghans and their families.”

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab today said that the UK had evacuated around 2,000 people from Kabul within the past 24 hours, and sources in London said the military believed it would be possible to keep that rate up for as long as the airlift continues.

In a joint letter to MPs and peers, Mr Raab, defence secretary Ben Wallace and home secretary Priti Patel promised that the “full might of government is being brought to bear” on increasing numbers evacuated, but acknowledged: “This window of opportunity at Kabul Airport for military evacuation will shortly come to a close…

“It is the sad reality that many of those who are screened and declared eligible for evacuation may not make it to the airport before our flights end.”

Mr Johnson has issued a plea to the Taliban to ensure safe passage for those wanting to leave the country following the withdrawal of international forces, either directly from the airport or via processing hubs in neighbouring countries.

He said that future economic and diplomatic support for Afghanistan from the international community will be conditional on the treatment of those trying to flee.

As well as UK nationals and Afghans, including interpreters, who have worked with British institutions over the past 20 years, the UK is seeking to evacuate local people who may be vulnerable to Taliban reprisals because of their links to civil society and human rights groups or as women in prominent roles in Afghan society.

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