UK confident it can get Britons out of Afghanistan, Ben Wallace sayson August 16, 2021 at 8:36 am

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There are plans to evacuate hundreds more eligible individuals in the coming days, the defence secretary says.

British nationals and embassy staff arrive at RAF Brize Norton on Sunday evening

image sourceMoD

The UK government is confident it can get British nationals out of Afghanistan, with plans for hundreds more to leave in the coming days, the defence secretary has said.

Ben Wallace told the BBC the military part of Kabul’s international airport was open and secure, enabling those eligible to leave for the UK.

The UK is also evacuating Afghans who worked for the British forces.

The Taliban has claimed victory after taking over the capital of Kabul.

Fighters have seized the presidential palace and the government has collapsed, with President Ashraf Ghani fleeing abroad.

Commercial flights from the airport have been suspended, leaving hundreds of Afghans who were trying to escape stranded.

But Mr Wallace said he had received assurances from the Taliban military leadership via a Middle East country that the airport would be allowed to function, enabling UK officials and forces to help people leave.

He told BBC Breakfast 300 British passport holders had left Afghanistan on Sunday, with the government aiming to fly out a further 1,500 people over the next 24 to 36 hours or slightly longer.

“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 United Kingdom,” he said.

“Currently, this is not about capacity on planes, it’s about processing speeds, so that’s why I’m trying to fix that.”

Map showing how much of the country is controlled by the Taliban compared to last month
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The Foreign Office has advised more than 4,000 British citizens thought to be in Afghanistan to leave.

About 600 British troops have been sent to Afghanistan to help evacuate UK nationals, as well as Afghan interpreters and other staff who worked for the UK, as part of Operation Pitting.

British nationals and embassy staff arrive at RAF Brize Norton on Sunday evening

image sourceMoD

Mr Wallace said the government “will try our very best” to get all those eligible out of Afghanistan by 31 August or sooner.

“If we can manage to keep the airport running in the way we are putting in place our people to deliver then I’m confident that by the end of the month we could get everyone out and actually hopefully sooner,” he said.

He added that some people would be left behind, for example those not currently in Kabul, but stressed the British evacuation programme was “open-ended” with no time-limit.

Labour has called on the government to urgently expand the resettlement scheme for Afghans to ensure none are left behind.

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