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

20 August 2021, 08:29

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Armed Forces Minister James Heappey tells LBC the prospect of leaving behind Afghans who helped Britain "keeps us awake at night."

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari the former army officer was asked how he would feel if the UK was forced to leave people behind.

"It hurts every single one of us in the MoD, that is a possibility. That's what keeps us awake at night, that's what motivates us and every single member of the armed forces."

Read more: Taliban carrying out door-to-door manhunt for US/UK 'collaborators', report says

The scramble to evacuate those who helped the West during the 20-year conflict in Afghanistan has intensified after a leaked UN report revealed the Taliban are engaged in a door-to-door manhunt.

The hardline Islamist group has tried to reassure Afghans since seizing power in a lightning offensive, promising there would be "no revenge".

Watch: 'Are the Taliban the enemy?' Nick Ferrari puts Defence Secretary on the spot

But, the UN report says the militant group has been carrying out "targeted door-to-door visits" of those suspected of working with allied armed forces.

Speaking earlier on LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, former Paratrooper, Major Andrew Fox, said he knew interpreters who had been threatened by the Taliban.

"Some of them are on an escape and evasion mission" attempting to get to Kabul airport and secure a safe exit from the country.

Mr Heappey said 963 people have been evacuated from Kabul on the RAF "air bridge" in the last 24 hours.

Watch: 'Grim' desperate and sad' scenes as mothers throw babies over fence at Kabul airport

He told LBC he understood the Taliban are not turning people away from Kabul airport, noting: "Where they have done I've heard it's more that they are being officious rather than malicious."