UK to deploy 600 troops to Afghanistan to help British nationals leave amid Taliban gains

12 August 2021, 20:00 | Updated: 13 August 2021, 17:02

Afghan displaced people who fled from their homes during the fights take shelter in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Afghan displaced people who fled from their homes during the fights take shelter in a public park in Kabul, Afghanistan. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Around 600 UK military personnel will deploy to Afghanistan to provide support to British nationals leaving the country, the Defence Secretary has announced.

The additional deployment of approximately 600 troops is in light of the increasing violence and rapidly deteriorating security environment in the country.

The security situation has been getting worse in the last few days with the Taliban claiming yet another city – Kandahar - on Thursday.

Kandahar was the twelfth provincial capital the insurgents have captured in around a weeklong sweep across Afghanistan.

Officials said Kandahar fell on Thursday night and that government officials and their entourage managed to flee to the airport to escape the city by air.

The earlier seizure of Herat marked one of the biggest prizes yet for the Taliban.

Thousands of people are crossing the borders or heading to Kabul in search of safety, and the UK’s embassy in Kabul will be moved to a more secure location and will only have a core of staff.

Read more: Joe Biden has no regrets over pulling American troops out of Afghanistan

UK troops will arrive in Kabul over the coming days, after the Foreign Office changed travel advice on Friday to recommend all British nationals leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, while commercial travel options remain available.

British nationals have also been urged to contact the Embassy as soon as possible for assistance.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: "I have authorised the deployment of additional military personnel to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, assist British nationals to leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff who risked their lives serving alongside us.

"The security of British nationals, British military personnel and former Afghan staff is our first priority. We must do everything we can to ensure their safety."

Labour's shadow defence secretary John Healey hoped the deployment would ensure that British personnel are "safely and orderly withdrawn" from Afghanistan, but also said the protection of Afghans must not be forgotten.

US intelligence has warned that Kabul could fall within 90 days.

The US has also announced that it is deploying some 3,000 additional troops to help the departure of its embassy staff. The American embassy will remain open, although personnel will be reduced to a "core diplomatic presence".

US president Joe Biden said he "doesn't regret" pulling American troops out of Afghanistan, despite Taliban gains.