Nearly 4,000 evacuated from Afghanistan as US deadline looms

21 August 2021, 07:25 | Updated: 21 August 2021, 23:20

Thousands of people have already been evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul
Thousands of people have already been evacuated from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Picture: Alamy Live News

By Will Taylor

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said that nearly 4,000 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan since August 13, with Joe Biden suggesting rescue missions should be completed within 10 days.

Giving a breakdown of the 3,821 repatriated so far, the MoD said 1,429 individuals and their families have been relocated under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme and 1,323 UK nationals and their loved ones have also now been brought to Britain via military and civilian charter flights since the operation commenced.

In addition, a further 1,069 individuals have been relocated from a third country.

Officials said they were continuing to "work closely" with US military partners to "ensure the security and viability of the evacuation mission in Kabul".

Read more: 'Absolutely terrifying': Afghan refugees arrive in UK after Taliban takeover

Read more: Tory MP: Biden pulled out of Afghanistan 'because it sounded good'

Foreign countries are scrambling to get their citizens and Afghans who helped international forces out of the country after the Taliban took over.

Speaking on Friday, US president Joe Biden said efforts to rescue Americans could conclude at the end of August – which will likely mean the UK will have to finish its operation by then, too.

Mr Biden told reporters: "I think we can get it done by then, but we're going to make that judgment as we go."

It makes clear how reliant international forces have been on the US presence, both during the Kabul airport evacuation and the campaign against the Taliban.

Boris Johnson said the UK will have to "manage the consequences" of the US's withdrawal.

The Times reports he feels "let down" by Mr Biden over the US's handling of the withdrawal.

On Friday, the Prime Minister said: "We went into Afghanistan to support and help protect the United States.

Read more: Boris Johnson: UK working 'flat-out' to bring Afghans who helped the UK to safety

"So when the United States decides emphatically to withdraw in the way that they have, clearly, we're going to have to manage the consequences."

A diplomatic memo seen by Bloomberg suggests Mr Biden told leaders at the Cornwall G7 meeting that "critical US enablers" would be kept in Kabul after US forces left Afghanistan.

British officials took that to mean the capital would be sufficiently secured so that it could keep its embassy open – but instead, it has been evacuated.

About 1,000 other people were taken out of Afghanistan by the UK on Thursday and Friday, mostly either British nationals or those who helped the UK in Afghanistan.

Mr Biden defended the withdrawal, claiming there had been "no questioning of our credibility" from US allies.

However, NATO countries called for the US to secure Hamid Karzai International for as long as it takes to get people out – even if forces have to stay after Americans are evacuated.

Meanwhile, Boris Johnson said the UK could work with the Taliban "if necessary" to "find a solution".

Read more: 'Thought of leaving people behind keeps me awake at night', Defence minister says

Read more: Women at Kabul airport crushed in 'horrendous' scenes, journalist tells LBC

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy has shared a letter she has written to Dominic Raab about the "crisis facing UK and Afghan nationals seeking evacuation from Afghanistan".

The senior Labour MP told the Foreign Secretary: "My office is currently in touch with hundreds of people who cannot reach the Baron Hotel or Hamid Karzai International Airport, have been beaten at checkpoints or turned away - some with young children."

The letter states that MPs have "reported cases to the FCDO of people being shot at, beaten and raped" while they wait to be called forward at the airport.

The Baron Hotel in Kabul, where many British nationals are being told to travel to for processing, is also being blockaded by the Taliban, Ms Nandy said.

The shadow cabinet member requested that all MPs receive a briefing on the current state of affairs, complaining that Tory MPs had been given information when Opposition representatives had not.

"Why, despite repeated promises to arrange this, haven't all MPs been offered the same?" she asked in the four-page document.

Under the group's last regime, deposed in 2001 after the September 11 attacks, the Taliban largely kept women at home, banned TV and music and held regular public executions.

Reports have already emerged of targeted killings in areas under their control – while the Taliban has tried to wage a PR campaign in which they pledged to be more moderate.

Mr Johnson said: "I think it's very important that we take people at face value. We hope that they mean what they say."

The PM also said he "absolutely" had confidence in the under-fire foreign secretary Dominic Raab, when it emerged he delegated a call to a junior minister about getting Afghan interpreters out of the country while he holidayed in Crete.

It has since emerged the call never took place.