The last British flight evacuating civilians from Afghanistan has left Kabul, bringing to an end an operation that has airlifted more than 15 000 Afghans, Britons and other foreign nationals in the two weeks since the Taliban took control.
Britain’s armed forces are now preparing to leave and will take small numbers of Afghan citizens with them on remaining flights this weekend, a defence ministry spokesperson said on Saturday.
“It’s time to close this phase of the operation down. But we haven’t forgotten the people who still need to leave, and we will do everything we can to help them,” Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, said in a statement filmed on the tarmac at Kabul’s main airport.
Some British troops have already departed, and a British military transport plane carrying armed forces members landed at an airbase in southern England on Saturday.
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Britain was at Washington’s side from the start of a US-led invasion of Afghanistan that overthrew the then-ruling Taliban in punishment for harbouring the al Qaeda militants behind the September 11, 2001 attacks.
More than 450 British armed forces personnel died during two decades of deployment in the country.
Wallace said on Friday he estimated between 800 and 1 100 Afghans who had worked with Britain and were eligible to leave the country would not make it through. General Nick Carter, the head of Britain’s armed forces, told the BBC on Saturday that the total would be in the “high hundreds”.
Many Afghans unable to leave judged it was too dangerous to travel to Kabul airport, Carter said.