Afghanistan: UK in talks with Taliban to secure safe passage for Brits and refugees

31 August 2021, 23:02 | Updated: 31 August 2021, 23:08

The UK is in talks with the Taliban to "underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan" for Brits and Afghans
The UK is in talks with the Taliban to "underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan" for Brits and Afghans. Picture: Saifurahman Safi/Xinhua/Alamy Live News

By Daisy Stephens

Downing Street said talks are taking place with the Taliban in a bid to secure safe passage out of Afghanistan for British nationals and Afghans who have worked with the UK.

A No 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's Special Representative for Afghan Transition, Simon Gass, has travelled to Doha and is meeting with senior Taliban representatives to underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan for British nationals, and those Afghans who have worked with us over the past 20 years."

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It comes as the Government announced UK and Afghan nationals will be offered extra help to escape Afghanistan over land borders following the conclusion of the emergency airlift.

Fifteen crisis response specialists are being deployed to Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan to assist British diplomats in their work to allow people to reach the UK.

They are expected to arrive within the next 48 hours, with the focus on helping UK nationals, interpreters and other Afghans who were employed by the UK, and those Afghans judged most at risk.

Dominic Raab said the number of UK residents still in Afghanistan is in the "low hundreds" but pledged the UK "will live up to all commitments we've made."

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, the Foreign Secretary said he would not be able to give a firm figure as to the number of Brits who would be left behind in Afghanistan.

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"In terms of British nationals the number is in the low hundreds, we got 5,000 out."

Mr Raab said many of the remaining cases were "difficult, complicated" ones with undocumented individuals, or families where one member may not be eligible.

On Tuesday US President Joe Biden defended his decision to set a deadline of August 31 to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, despite people who need help remaining in the country.

The final US troops left Kabul on a flight shortly before midnight local time on Monday, ahead of Mr Biden's deadline to withdraw before the end of August.

The Taliban proclaimed "full independence" for Afghanistan after the US withdrawal.

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Mr Biden, speaking after the evacuation mission came to an end, said on Tuesday: "I was not going to extend this forever war and I was not extending a forever exit."

He said there will be ongoing efforts in Afghanistan to reopen the airport in Kabul, adding: "As well as overland routes, allowing for continued departure for those who want to leave and deliver humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan."