FRANTIC families have packed into a flight today as the UK warns Afghans will be left to flee by themselves.
Images released by the Ministry of Defence show a packed RAF plane whose passengers included citizens from Afghanistan eligible to settle in Britain as four women were crushed to death in chaotic scenes to escape.
But Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said “no nation will be able to get everyone out” of Afghanistan as he predicted growing crowds at Kabul airport as “desperate people” race to escape the Taliban.
Yet the Cabinet minister looked to assure those who are almost certain to be left behind that the UK will continue to work to repatriate them even once troops are home.
It comes as Taliban death squads are reportedly pulling people from their homes and executing them as they step up the hunt for anyone who helped the US and UK.
Writing for the Mail on Sunday, the Cabinet minister called the retreat of allied forces “unedifying” and warned that the events of the past weeks “will have consequences for us all for years to come”.
He said: “I have said all along that no nation will be able to get everyone out.
“It is a source of deep sadness for many of us across Nato, and no-one wanted 20 years of sacrifice to end this way.
“We will do our best to the very last moment.
“But it isn’t the end. We shall stand by our obligations and are investigating now how to process people from third countries and refugee camps.”
Mr Wallace said the UK would establish a series of processing hubs across the region outside Afghanistan for those Afghans the UK has an obligation to take in.
And he said the latest issue at Kabul airfield is that there are “too many people in the airport”, bringing about “a suspension of access”.
The Ministry of Defence stressed, however, that the suspension applied only to the US-side of the operation at Hamid Karzai International, and that neither UK flights nor processing was affected by the pause.
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Nearly 4,000 people had been evacuated by Britain from Afghanistan since August 13.
Sky News said it had spoken to British troops at the airport who, having served in Afghanistan previously, said the queues, crushing and desperation of people to get out of the country were the worst scenes they had witnessed during their service.
Meanwhile, the US has warned its citizens due to “potential security threats outside the gates”.
Sir Laurie Bristow, Britain’s ambassador in Afghanistan, said: “The scale of this effort is enormous and is without a doubt the biggest international challenge I have worked on as a diplomat.
I have said all along that no nation will be able to get everyone out
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
“Lives are at stake and I am incredibly proud of the tenacious efforts of my team during these challenging times, with military and civilian staff working together to successfully evacuate thousands of people in the last week.
“We will continue to work tirelessly to get British nationals, Afghan staff and others at risk out of the country as quickly as possible as we also support Afghanistan’s long-term future.”
UK PM Boris Johnson has paid tribute to Sir Laurie and his team who are aiding repatriation efforts at Kabul airport.
Mr Johnson told reporters after an emergency Government meeting that the situation in the central Asian country was “slightly better”, although the airport scenario has since worsened.
‘TENSIONS BETWEEN UK AND US’
But it is a race against time.
US President Joe Biden signalled he wanted the evacuations completed by the end of the month — a move that would likely force Britain to wrap up its operation at the same time.
“Officials said they were continuing to “work closely” with US military partners to “ensure the security and viability of the evacuation mission in Kabul”.
But there are reports of tension between Washington and London, with claims the UK Government was kept in the dark about the timetable for the US withdrawal of its armed forces.
Further British troops are being held “at readiness in the region and the UK” to move to Afghanistan “at speed” if required, the MoD said.
The MoD is looking at establishing hubs in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey.
In a briefing on Saturday, the US Department of Defense said 17,000 people have been flown out of the airport, including some 2,500 US citizens.