Connect with us

News

Military planes evacuating Afghans drop flares and make ‘diving combat landings’ amid fears of ISIS missile attacks as TWENTY die including girl, two, at Kabul airport in stampede to escape Taliban before US lifeline ends

Published

on

Military planes evacuating Afghans drop flares and make ‘diving combat landings’ amid fears of ISIS missile attacks as TWENTY die including girl, two, at Kabul airport in stampede to escape Taliban before US lifeline ends

 

 

 

  • At least 20 Afghan civilians have been killed in the past seven days in and around Kabul airport
  • The situation has taken a turn for the worse, with four Afghan women crushed to death on Saturday
  • Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul has been the focal point for thousands trying to flee the Taliban 
  • MoD looking at establishing processing ‘hubs’ for Afghan refugees in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey
  • However, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says Afghans fleeing the Taliban may have to escape themselves 
  • It comes amid fears of an August 31 rescue deadline, when it is believed the US will pull its remaining troops
  • The 900 British troops in Afghanistan cannot remain without logistical support of 6,000 US soldiers in Kabul 
  • They will therefore have to finish the evacuation before that point to allow them to safely escape Afghanistan

Military plans making evacuation runs into Kabul are dropping flares and carrying out nosedive combat landings amid fears that Islamic terrorists may try to shoot one down as Afghans trying to flee the Taliban have described at least 20 civilians being killed by militants.

US military planes are doing rapid diving combat landings to beat the threat of a missile attack, with video showing a French transport plane yesterday deploying flares designed to confuse heat-seeking technology.

Taliban forces controlling all access points to Hamid Karzai International Airport are not thought to be attempting to shoot down military aircraft during the Western evacuation effort, as such an action could trigger another American-led intervention in Afghanistan.

But US military officials have said they fear a possible attack by the Islamic State group affiliate in Afghanistan. It is feared the terrorists could use stolen heat-seeking missiles to bring down a rescue plane carrying hundreds of refugees including women and children.

ISIS militants have been fighting the Taliban for the last six years as they attempt to annex their own piece of Afghanistan following the collapse of their empire – or ‘caliphate’ – in Syria and Iraq following Western aerial bombardment.

Afghans at Kabul airport have described seeing more than 15 people including a two-year-old girl shot and beaten to death by the Taliban or trampled to death in the melee as thousands of locals desperately try to escape the new regime. One family described night-time crowd surges outside the airport gates and people killed in the stampede as they pleaded: ‘We are trapped in a hell.’

A NATO official who spoke on condition of anonymity told Reuters at least 20 people have been killed in the past seven days in and around Kabul airport during the evacuation effort. The British Ministry of Defence said seven Afghans had died while trying to flee the Taliban.

British Armed Forces Minister James Heappey has said that more than 1,700 people have been airlifted out in the past 24 hours with the help of the Taliban, adding that the militants were marshalling people into separate UK and US evacuation queues.

However, Taliban militants surrounding Kabul airport fired in the air and used batons to beat back the crowds and make people line up in orderly queues on Sunday, witnesses said. The crude crowd-control methods, together with reports that Taliban gangs have marauded conquered territory to enslave female Afghans, fly in the face of the group’s stated claims to be going ‘moderate’.

The Taliban on Sunday blamed the United States for the chaotic evacuation of tens of thousands of Afghans and foreigners from the capital, one week after the hardline Islamist group returned to power in a rapid victory that stunned the world.

Boris Johnson said he will convene G7 leaders on Tuesday for ‘urgent talks on the situation in Afghanistan’, writing on Twitter: ‘It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years.’

The crisis in Afghanistan has strained relations between Britain and the US, with Tony Blair – who was in Downing Street when London sent troops into the Middle Eastern country 20 years ago following the 9/11 attacks – branding Joe Biden’s withdrawal of US troops ‘imbecilic’.

Cabinet insiders have suggested the President was ‘gaga’ and ‘doolally’ for withdrawing so quickly, while the Prime Minister has allegedly privately referred to Mr Biden as ‘Sleepy Joe’, the nickname coined by Donald Trump. Mr Johnson also allegedly remarked Britain ‘would be better off with Trump’ – allegations branded ‘categorically untrue’ by Downing Street.

However, there were further worrying reports about the treatment of Britons and Afghans who supported the 20-year intervention who are trying to escape. Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy said Labour MPs had been hearing of people being ‘shot at, beaten and raped’ while they wait to be called forward at the airport, while the Baron Hotel in the city, where many British nationals are being told to travel to for processing, is being blockaded by the Taliban.

It comes as Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, in what is likely to be read as a plea to Washington, said ‘no nation will be able to get everyone out’ of Afghanistan, with the US President’s August 31 target date making the rescue mission even more time pressured.

In other dramatic developments:

  • Mr Raab was accused of defying an order from No 10 to return early from his holiday as the crisis escalated. However, allies of Mr Raab said Boris Johnson had given him permission to remain; 
  • Tony Blair branded the ‘abandonment of Afghanistan and its people’ as ‘tragic and dangerous’; 
  • Sources claimed that the Prime Minister felt ‘betrayed’ by Joe Biden over the Afghan withdrawal – although No 10 denied there are any tensions between the two;
  • One source even claimed the President, 78, was ‘a bit doolally’;
  • Taliban leaders Mullah Baradar and Siraj Haqqani arrived in Kabul to form a new government;
  • UK hate preacher Anjem Choudary urged the Taliban to restore full Islamic justice, including stoning adulterers;
  • The Home Office was scrambling to make the Taliban a proscribed group in an attempt to dissuade British jihadis from heading to Afghanistan;
  • Britons in Kabul said the city was running out of food and money; 
  • Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Laurie Bristow, called the crisis the ‘greatest challenge’ of his 30-year career;
  • Thousands rallied in London in protest at the Government’s handling of the crisis;
  • The Minister with responsibility for Afghanistan, Lord Ahmad, was reported to be on holiday when the Taliban seized Kabul.
US military plans are doing rapid diving combat landings to beat the threat of a missile attack, with video showing a French transport plane yesterday deploying flares designed to confuse heat-seeking technology

US military plans are doing rapid diving combat landings to beat the threat of a missile attack, with video showing a French transport plane yesterday deploying flares designed to confuse heat-seeking technology
Military plans making evacuation runs into Kabul are dropping flares and carrying out nosedive combat landings amid fears that Islamic terrorists may try to shoot one down

Military plans making evacuation runs into Kabul are dropping flares and carrying out nosedive combat landings amid fears that Islamic terrorists may try to shoot one down
Hundreds of Afghans desperately trying to flee the Taliban are pictured outside Kabul airport

Hundreds of Afghans desperately trying to flee the Taliban are pictured outside Kabul airport
Afghans trying to flee (pictured: Chaos at Kabul airport yesterday) to Britain to escape the Taliban will have to make their own way to the borders if the Americans do not delay the date for leaving the country, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace declares today

Afghans trying to flee (pictured: Chaos at Kabul airport yesterday) to Britain to escape the Taliban will have to make their own way to the borders if the Americans do not delay the date for leaving the country, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace declares today
In a powerfully emotive article for The Mail on Sunday, Mr Wallace warns that time is ¿ticking along, impossible to stop¿ towards the imminent end of the UK¿s mission to rescue thousands of Afghans entitled to come to the UK. Pictured: Afghans attempt to get into Kabul airport yesterday

In a powerfully emotive article for The Mail on Sunday, Mr Wallace warns that time is ¿ticking along, impossible to stop¿ towards the imminent end of the UK¿s mission to rescue thousands of Afghans entitled to come to the UK. Pictured: Afghans attempt to get into Kabul airport yesterday
Staff talking to evacuees from Afghanistan as they arrive in an Airbus A400 transport aircraft of the German Air Force Luftwaffe in Tashkent, Uzbekistan

Staff talking to evacuees from Afghanistan as they arrive in an Airbus A400 transport aircraft of the German Air Force Luftwaffe in Tashkent, Uzbekistan
Evacuations have been underway in Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country on August 13 after American troops were pulled from the country

Evacuations have been underway in Afghanistan since the Taliban took control of the country on August 13 after American troops were pulled from the country
Members of the British and US military engage in the evacuation of people out of Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday

Members of the British and US military engage in the evacuation of people out of Kabul, Afghanistan on Friday
Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office released images showing British Ambassador to Kabul Sir Laurie Bristow processing applications - images which contrast sharply with the reality of the chaos engulfing Kabul airport

Meanwhile, the British Foreign Office released images showing British Ambassador to Kabul Sir Laurie Bristow processing applications – images which contrast sharply with the reality of the chaos engulfing Kabul airport
A second image show British Ambassador to Kabul Sir Laurie speaking to a British soldier - an image which contrasts sharply with the reality of the chaos engulfing Kabul airport

A second image show British Ambassador to Kabul Sir Laurie speaking to a British soldier – an image which contrasts sharply with the reality of the chaos engulfing Kabul airport
US troops are set to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by August 31. Pictured: US President Joe Biden

US troops are set to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by August 31. Pictured: US President Joe Biden
Mr Wallace (pictured) makes a veiled plea for Washington to delay the US leaving date beyond August 31, writing: ¿Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer and they will have our complete support if they do'

Mr Wallace (pictured) makes a veiled plea for Washington to delay the US leaving date beyond August 31, writing: ¿Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer and they will have our complete support if they do’
Beneath a fierce late-morning sun, crowds parted to reveal women¿s lifeless bodies and then, rising above the chaotic hubbub, the piercing screams of their children

Beneath a fierce late-morning sun, crowds parted to reveal women¿s lifeless bodies and then, rising above the chaotic hubbub, the piercing screams of their children
A baby is handed over to the American army over the perimeter wall of the airport for it to be evacuated, in Kabul

A baby is handed over to the American army over the perimeter wall of the airport for it to be evacuated, in Kabul
Paratroopers tried to pull people from the chaos, and stood atop compound walls, spraying the crowd with hoses to try and cool them down, as medics dashed between casualties

Paratroopers tried to pull people from the chaos, and stood atop compound walls, spraying the crowd with hoses to try and cool them down, as medics dashed between casualties
At least four women are thought to have died in what witnesses called a ¿horrendous crush¿. Pictured: Soldiers cover up the bodies of those who died yesterday

At least four women are thought to have died in what witnesses called a ¿horrendous crush¿. Pictured: Soldiers cover up the bodies of those who died yesterday
A soldier gives one of the locals at the airport a bottle of water, as many struggled in chaotic scenes at the airport today

A soldier gives one of the locals at the airport a bottle of water, as many struggled in chaotic scenes at the airport today
A U.S. Navy Corpsman with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command, hands out water to children during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport

A U.S. Navy Corpsman with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, hands out water to children during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport
An evacuee holds up a peace sign after being manifested for a flight at Hamid Karzai International Airport

An evacuee holds up a peace sign after being manifested for a flight at Hamid Karzai International Airport
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighters stand guard on their respective sides at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Torkham, in Khyber district, Pakistan

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighters stand guard on their respective sides at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Torkham, in Khyber district, Pakistan
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier indicates direction to Afghan nationals at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier indicates direction to Afghan nationals at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan
The 19th century struggle for power in Afghanistan between the UK and Tsarist Russia was called the Great Game. As the US and the UK pull its troops and the Taliban retake control by force, who will Afghanistan's new leaders cosy-up with? Turkey, the only Muslim-majority member of Nato, could benefit, partly because it can control the flow of Afghan refugees into Europe. The mullahs in Iran are delighted by the departure of the US and will recognise the new Kabul regime. Russia will also be pleased to see the US leave, but has its own concerns about Islamic extremism. China and Pakistan have also made early noises of support, while Qatar hosted Taliban leaders in its capital Doha since 2013. However India is dismayed by the Taliban's victory. Here Michael Burleigh looks at where each countries vested interests lie, and which countries will be happy and who will be angry at the Taliban takeover

The 19th century struggle for power in Afghanistan between the UK and Tsarist Russia was called the Great Game. As the US and the UK pull its troops and the Taliban retake control by force, who will Afghanistan’s new leaders cosy-up with? Turkey, the only Muslim-majority member of Nato, could benefit, partly because it can control the flow of Afghan refugees into Europe. The mullahs in Iran are delighted by the departure of the US and will recognise the new Kabul regime. Russia will also be pleased to see the US leave, but has its own concerns about Islamic extremism. China and Pakistan have also made early noises of support, while Qatar hosted Taliban leaders in its capital Doha since 2013. However India is dismayed by the Taliban’s victory. Here Michael Burleigh looks at where each countries vested interests lie, and which countries will be happy and who will be angry at the Taliban takeover

Britain loses patience with Sleepy Joe: Tony Blair brands Biden an ‘imbecile’ over ‘tragic, dangerous and unnecessary’ decision to quit Afghanistan amid claims Boris remarked ‘we would be better off with Trump’

Tony Blair has blasted US President Joe Biden's 'imbecilic' decision to withdraw American troops from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan

Tony Blair has blasted US President Joe Biden’s ‘imbecilic’ decision to withdraw American troops from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan

Tony Blair has blasted US President Joe Biden’s ‘imbecilic’ decision to withdraw American troops from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, calling the scuttle ‘tragic, dangerous and unnecessary’ and claiming the move had ‘every Jihadist group round the world cheering’.

Mr Blair, who was in Downing Street when London sent British troops into the Middle Eastern country 20 years ago following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington – said Britain has a ‘moral obligation’ to stay until ‘all those who need to be are evacuated’.

In a 2,700 article on the threat of ‘radical Islam’, the former British prime minister said the exit was not in the West or Afghanistan’s interest as he lamented the likely reversal of gains made during the occupation, with the Taliban reasserting itself across most of the country in recent days.

Mr Blair issued a stark warning to Boris Johnson that the manner of the US’ handling of the exit indicated the UK could be relegated from the top division of international powers, with reports Britain was largely kept in the dark about when American armed forces would leave.

Relations between Britain and US are strained, with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warning ‘no nation will be able to get everyone out’ of Afghanistan as Mr Biden’s August 31 date makes the mission even more time-pressured, in what is likely to be seen as a plea to Washington.

Cabinet insiders have suggested the President was ‘gaga’ and ‘doolally’ for withdrawing so quickly, while the Prime Minister has allegedly privately referred to Mr Biden as ‘Sleepy Joe’, the nickname coined by Donald Trump. Mr Johnson also allegedly remarked Britain ‘would be better off with Trump’ – allegations branded ‘categorically untrue’ by Downing Street.

Afghanistan’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul has been the focal point for thousands trying to flee the Taliban, who seized power after sweeping into the capital a week ago following their astonishing lightning advance across the Middle Eastern country.

One mother – a former interpreter – said her two-year-old daughter was trampled to death as the family attempted to get to the airport. The unnamed woman said the crowd surged as the family was thrown the ground, with other desperate escapees trampling them.

She couldn’t breathe and when she came to her feet she searched for her daughter, only to find the little girl dead. ‘I felt pure terror. I couldn’t save her,’ she told the New York Times.

Another Afghan woman called Sara, who asked for her real name not to be used, told the Observer how families with US visas, US passports and green cards were not able to reach their evacuation flights or get any information about their fate as the Taliban block all access points to Kabul airport.

Sara said: ‘It’s so scary here. There’s horror in everyone’s eyes. No one is allowed through, even with visas.

‘No one from the US is helping us. No one is telling us which gate to go to – we don’t even know when the US flights are leaving. There is violence everywhere but every gate we go to is closed and no one gives us any information or shows any mercy.’

A close family friend based in the US added: ‘The US have told them they can be evacuated, but only if they can get through an airport gate. But every day they have gone to the airport it’s been so crowded and violent, it’s not been possible to get the family through without a huge risk to their lives.’

Writing for the Mail on Sunday, Mr Wallace said: ‘If the US timetable remains, we have no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out. Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer, and they will have our complete support if they do.’

According to the Sunday Times, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – who is facing calls to resign over his decision to remain on holiday while Afghanistan collapsed – is seeking to speak to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss extending the end-of-the-month deadline.

The 900 British troops cannot remain without the logistical support of the 6,000 US soldiers in Kabul and will have to finish the evacuation before that point to allow enough time to secure their own safe exit.

Mr Wallace confirmed there were ‘too many people in the airport’ on Saturday, forcing the US side of the operation to suspend access. A MoD spokeswoman stressed that neither UK flights nor processing were affected by the pause, however.

US citizens were yesterday warned not to go to the airport amid fears that they might be hijacked en route by militants. The State Department said the US side of the airport would close for 48 hours. The British section remained open.

Sir Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Afghanistan who has stayed in the capital to help process applications, said the rescue effort was ‘without a doubt the biggest international challenge I have worked on as a diplomat’.

According to the MoD, 3,821 British and Afghan nationals have been evacuated from Kabul, where 1,000 British troops are based. About 3,500 people are still waiting to be airlifted.

Last night, an MoD source said the announcement about the refugee centres was intended to display ‘honesty’ about the thousands of British allies likely to be left behind.

While acknowledging that ‘no nation will be able to get everyone out’, Mr Wallace also announces that a series of ‘processing hubs’ will be set up in countries neighbouring Afghanistan for refugees who manage to escape. If they can establish their right to come to the UK, they will be flown to Britain.

The MoD is looking at establishing hubs in countries such as Pakistan  and Turkey – but, startlingly, is also exploring whether the Taliban might allow the UK to retain a ‘presence’ in Kabul after the Americans have gone.

In his article today, Mr Wallace says that the collapse of Afghanistan has been ‘an exhausting, worrying and demanding time’, and warns that ‘the distressing exit of the West will have consequences for us all for years to come’.

He says: ‘The Parachute Regiment at the airport are dealing with unimaginable challenges. Public order, overcrowding, searing heat and desperate people. Soldiers trained for war are instead holding babies and co-ordinating crowds.’

The Minister adds: ‘Too many people in the airport has meant a suspension of access. I am confident that too will be fixed or mitigated but until it is, the crowds will get bigger. And ticking along, impossible to stop, is time. 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. The Home Secretary and I have been planning the next stage… we will establish a series of processing hubs across the region outside of Afghanistan for those Afghans we have an obligation to bring to this country.’

It comes as former British premier Tony Blair blasted Mr Biden’s ‘imbecilic’ decision to withdraw American troops from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, calling the scuttle ‘tragic, dangerous and unnecessary’ and claiming the move had ‘every Jihadist group round the world cheering’.

Mr Blair, who was in Downing Street when London sent British troops into the Middle Eastern country 20 years ago following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington – said Britain has a ‘moral obligation’ to stay until ‘all those who need to be are evacuated’.

In a 2,700 article on the threat of ‘radical Islam’, the former British prime minister said the exit was not in the West or Afghanistan’s interest as he lamented the likely reversal of gains made during the occupation, with the Taliban reasserting itself across most of the country in recent days.

While acknowledging that ¿no nation will be able to get everyone out¿, Mr Wallace also announces that a series of ¿processing hubs¿ will be set up in countries neighbouring Afghanistan for refugees who manage to escape. If they can establish their right to come to the UK, they will be flown to Britain. Pictured: British and US troops help Afghans in Kabul

While acknowledging that ¿no nation will be able to get everyone out¿, Mr Wallace also announces that a series of ¿processing hubs¿ will be set up in countries neighbouring Afghanistan for refugees who manage to escape. If they can establish their right to come to the UK, they will be flown to Britain. Pictured: British and US troops help Afghans in Kabul
The MoD is looking at establishing hubs in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey ¿ but, startlingly, is also exploring whether the Taliban might allow the UK to retain a ¿presence¿ in Kabul after the Americans have gone. Pictured: A British evacuation flight with 265 people on board

The MoD is looking at establishing hubs in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey ¿ but, startlingly, is also exploring whether the Taliban might allow the UK to retain a ¿presence¿ in Kabul after the Americans have gone. Pictured: A British evacuation flight with 265 people on board
A U.S. Airman with the Joint Task Force-Crisis Response speaks with families who await processing during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport

A U.S. Airman with the Joint Task Force-Crisis Response speaks with families who await processing during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, front, and Taliban fighters, stand guard on their respective sides while a truck moves to cross at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, front, and Taliban fighters, stand guard on their respective sides while a truck moves to cross at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan
Shocking footage shows injured Afghans bleeding as they desperately try and make their way into the airport

Shocking footage shows injured Afghans bleeding as they desperately try and make their way into the airport
There were also scenes of people left injured and bloodied, sat amongst piles of papers and discarded clothes near the site, while others stood shoulder to shoulder, amid sounds of screams and gunshots

There were also scenes of people left injured and bloodied, sat amongst piles of papers and discarded clothes near the site, while others stood shoulder to shoulder, amid sounds of screams and gunshots
British soldiers desperately shouted for medics and stretchers, as unconscious people were carried away, many being pronounced dead and covered in white sheets

British soldiers desperately shouted for medics and stretchers, as unconscious people were carried away, many being pronounced dead and covered in white sheets
Taliban fighters stand guard on their side at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Torkham, in Khyber district, Pakistan

Taliban fighters stand guard on their side at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Torkham, in Khyber district, Pakistan
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighter stand guard on their respective sides at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighter stand guard on their respective sides at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan

UN warns Afghanistan faces ‘absolute catastrophe’ of famine, homelessness and economic ruin as Tory MP says organisation MUST be brought in to deal with Kabul airport chaos

The United Nations must intervene in Afghanistan 'immediately' before the country descends into 'complete disorder', Tory chairman of the Commons Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood has urged

The United Nations must intervene in Afghanistan ‘immediately’ before the country descends into ‘complete disorder’, Tory chairman of the Commons Defence Committee Tobias Ellwood has urged

The United Nations has warned that Afghanistan faces an ‘absolute catastrophe’ of famine, homelessness and economic ruin, as the Tory chairman of the Commons Defence Committee urged the organisation’s ‘immediate’ intervention before Kabul descends into ‘complete disorder’.

Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the UN’s World Food Programme’s country director for Afghanistan, told the Observer swift coordinated action was critical ‘otherwise, an already horrendous situation is just going to become an absolute catastrophe, a complete humanitarian disaster’.

She added: ‘We need to get supplies into the country, not only in terms of food, but the medical supplies, the shelter supplies. We need money and we need it now. Delay for the next six or seven weeks and it’s going to start becoming too late. People have nothing.

‘We have to get food in now and get it to the communities in the provinces, before roads are blocked by snow.’

Ex-Army officer Tobias Ellwood, who together with Tom Tugendhat and Johnny Mercer has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the scuttle, told Sky News: ‘If you do want to withdraw from a country you don’t pull out your military first and then choose to allow the civilians to depart.

‘This is the wrong order in which we’ve done things, and this situation is simply not sustainable, it’s getting worse every single day. The airport cannot manage this and with the terrorist threat growing the chances are the airport will implode.

‘What I will say is the United Nations and its agencies must be brought in immediately before complete disorder breaks down. The relationship between the US and the Taliban is very very fragile indeed, the US has frozen Afghanistan’s assets, the economy is in freefall.

‘Many of the civil servants that help run the country and indeed run the airport have already departed. We require some serious international leadership immediately.’

Mr Blair issued a stark warning to Mr Johnson that the manner of the US’ handling of the exit indicated the UK could be relegated from the top division of international powers, with reports Britain was largely kept in the dark about when American armed forces would leave.

Mr Blair also claimed that ‘Russia, China and Iran will see and take advantage. Anyone given commitments by Western leaders will understandably regard them as unstable currency’. Both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab have suggested that Britain will now have to turn to Beijing and Moscow to assist with exercising a ‘moderating influence’ over the Taliban post-withdrawal.

‘For Britain, out of Europe and suffering the end of the Afghanistan mission by our greatest ally with little or no consultation, we have serious reflection to do,’ said Mr Blair. ‘We don’t see it yet, but we are at risk of relegation to the second division of global powers.’

Meanwhile, The Mail on Sunday can reveal that Home Secretary Priti Patel is scrambling to proscribe the Taliban as a terrorist group amid fears that hundreds of British jihadis will head to Afghanistan to join and live under the Islamist regime.

The Home Office is now looking urgently to ban the group which has avoided proscription so far, even though the Taliban has harboured terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and killed 456 British troops in Afghanistan over the past two decades.

If an organisation is on the Government’s list of proscribed groups, it becomes a criminal offence for anyone in Britain to join or even support it, punishable by up to 14 years in jail. If the situation remains as it is, Ministers fear that British jihadis could join and train under the regime then escape prosecution on their return to Britain.

Sources have told the MoS that Ms Patel is ‘livid’ that the Taliban in Afghanistan has not been banned already. A source said last night: ‘The fault doesn’t lie with Priti. It goes far back, as no previous Home Secretary has bothered to ban it.’

A Government source told the MoS that MI5 and counter-terrorism units are preparing for the possibility of British jihadis travelling to Afghanistan.

‘Some will go and train under the Taliban and may come back to launch attacks,’ said the source.  Others may take their families with them and live under the Taliban’s Islamic government.’

Britain has promised to evacuate about 6,000 UK citizens and Afghan staff from the country, but that is looking increasingly unlikely.

Yesterday, amid chaotic scenes, Britons were told to either go to Kabul airport or the nearby Baron Hotel, where their papers could be processed. But some found their path blocked by makeshift Taliban checkpoints.

Last night, a Briton and his wife told how they came under fire from Taliban militants at a checkpoint as they headed to the hotel. Their driver was injured in the shooting.

As the British man tried to explain to the militants that he was a foreign national he was beaten and threatened.

He told ITV News: ‘My wife came out of the car, she was trying to save me and then they start beating my wife as well. They are warning me that if they see me next to that checkpoint they will kill us.’

It comes as yesterday the US Embassy told citizens not to travel to the Kabul airport without ‘individual instructions from a US government representative,’ citing potential security threats outside its gates.

And yet crowds remained outside its concrete barriers, clutching documents and sometimes stunned-looking children, blocked from flight by coils of razor wire.

Footage has since emerged of pandemonium and violence outside the airport, with US officials reporting that Americans have been beaten by the Taliban as they’ve tried to reach safety. The White House earlier confirmed that three military helicopters were used to rescue 169 Americans who were trapped at a hotel near the airport.

Meanwhile, Taliban co-founder Mullah Baradar arrived in the Afghan capital yesterday for talks with militant commanders, former government leaders and religious scholars.

Nato yesterday begged Mr Biden not to leave Kabul and urged the US troops to stay at the airport to get as many people out as possible.

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: ‘The US has stated that the timeline ends on August 31, but several of our allies raised… the need to potentially extend that to be able to get more people out.’

Meanwhile, pressure continues to grow on Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab after new claims emerged accusing him of failing to engage with foreign counterparts on the Afghanistan situation until the Taliban had reached Kabul.

Witnesses told the Times that the Cabinet minister was swimming and using a paddleboard on the last day of his break, which was spent at a beach at a five-star hotel on the Greek island of Crete, as the crisis began to unfold.

Mr Raab was already in the firing line after it emerged he delegated a call about repatriating Afghan interpreters, while away on August 13, to a junior minister, a decision that resulted in the phone conversation with the Afghan foreign minister not taking place and possibly delaying taking them to safety.

And last night he was plunged into a fresh row over his holiday after sources told the Mail on Sunday that he had refused an order by No.10 to return from the Mediterranean to deal with the Afghanistan crisis.

The sources said Mr Raab had been told by a senior Downing Street official on Friday 13th August that he should return to London immediately as the situation in Kabul deteriorated, and that there had been ‘much gnashing of teeth’ when he delayed his homecoming until the early hours of Monday morning.

Nato yesterday begged Mr Biden not to leave Kabul and urged the US troops to stay at the airport to get as many people out as possible. Pictured: Medical support personnel help an Afghan mother with her family off a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport aircraft moments after she delivered a child aboard the aircraft upon landing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany

Nato yesterday begged Mr Biden not to leave Kabul and urged the US troops to stay at the airport to get as many people out as possible. Pictured: Medical support personnel help an Afghan mother with her family off a U.S. Air Force C-17 transport aircraft moments after she delivered a child aboard the aircraft upon landing at Ramstein Air Base, Germany
Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: 'The US has stated that the timeline ends on August 31, but several of our allies raised... the need to potentially extend that to be able to get more people out.' Pictured: British troops in Kabul yesterday

Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said: ‘The US has stated that the timeline ends on August 31, but several of our allies raised… the need to potentially extend that to be able to get more people out.’ Pictured: British troops in Kabul yesterday
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighter, stand guard on their respective sides while a truck moves to cross at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Torkham, in Khyber district

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighter, stand guard on their respective sides while a truck moves to cross at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Torkham, in Khyber district

The claim is strongly denied by friends of Mr Raab, who insist that he was assured by Boris Johnson that he could stay with his family until the end of the weekend.

A source said: ‘There is no doubt that Raab was told to come back on that Friday. There was then a significant amount of surprise when he appeared on the Cobra on the Sunday down the line from Crete. He must have nobbled Boris and asked for permission to finish his holiday’.

Last night, Mr Raab told the Mail on Sunday that he had enjoyed a ‘wave of support’, and denied that there was pressure from within his party to resign.

Mr Raab said: ‘I’ve not heard any of my Conservative colleagues call for me to resign, but I have had a wave of support. There is no doubt that, like all countries, there is a measure of surprise at the rapidity of the Taliban takeover.

‘But as the Foreign Secretary travelling around the world, whether I am on leave or I’m travelling for work purposes, I am always set up to be able to grip things’.

A close ally of Mr Raab insisted that No.10 had not ‘ordered’ him to return on the Friday.

The ally said: ‘The suggestion was that he should make plans to come back. They said that if things get worse then he needed to be ready to come back at a moment’s notice. He then talked it through with the PM and it was agreed that he would came back on Sunday’.

 

Britain loses patience with Sleepy Joe: Tony Blair brands Biden an ‘imbecile’ over ‘tragic, dangerous and unnecessary’ decision to quit Afghanistan amid claims Boris remarked ‘we would be better off with Trump’

By JACK WRIGHT FOR MAILONLINE

Tony Blair has blasted US President Joe Biden’s ‘imbecilic’ decision to withdraw American troops from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan, calling the scuttle ‘tragic, dangerous and unnecessary’ and claiming the move had ‘every Jihadist group round the world cheering’.

Mr Blair, who was in Downing Street when London sent British troops into the Middle Eastern country 20 years ago following the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington – said Britain has a ‘moral obligation’ to stay until ‘all those who need to be are evacuated’.

In a 2,700 article on the threat of ‘radical Islam’, the former British prime minister said the exit was not in the West or Afghanistan’s interest as he lamented the likely reversal of gains made during the occupation, with the Taliban reasserting itself across most of the country in recent days.

Mr Blair issued a stark warning to Boris Johnson that the manner of the US’ handling of the exit indicated the UK could be relegated from the top division of international powers, with reports Britain was largely kept in the dark about when American armed forces would leave.

Relations between Britain and US are strained, with Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warning ‘no nation will be able to get everyone out’ of Afghanistan as Mr Biden’s August 31 date makes the mission even more time-pressured, in what is likely to be seen as a plea to Washington.

Cabinet insiders have suggested the President was ‘gaga’ and ‘doolally’ for withdrawing so quickly, while the Prime Minister has allegedly privately referred to Mr Biden as ‘Sleepy Joe’, the nickname coined by Donald Trump. Mr Johnson also allegedly remarked Britain ‘would be better off with Trump’ – allegations branded ‘categorically untrue’ by Downing Street.

One minister denounced US isolationism and warned the Government would have to ‘revisit’ the recent review on defence and foreign policy because the US was no longer a reliable ally.

They told the Sunday Times: ‘America has just signalled to the world that they are not that keen on playing a global role. The implications of that are absolutely huge. We need to get the integrated review out and reread it. We are going to have to do a hard-nosed revisit on all our assumptions and policies.

‘The US had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the First World War. They turned up late for the Second World War and now they are cutting and running in Afghanistan.’

Mr Blair also claimed that ‘Russia, China and Iran will see and take advantage. Anyone given commitments by Western leaders will understandably regard them as unstable currency’. Both the Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab have suggested that Britain will now have to turn to Beijing and Moscow to assist with exercising a ‘moderating influence’ over the Taliban post-withdrawal.

‘For Britain, out of Europe and suffering the end of the Afghanistan mission by our greatest ally with little or no consultation, we have serious reflection to do,’ said Mr Blair. ‘We don’t see it yet, but we are at risk of relegation to the second division of global powers.’

His comments come as the US President signalled he wanted evacuations from Kabul airport completed by the end of the month as he prepares to withdraw all American troops – a move that would likely force Britain to wrap up its operation at the same time.

Tony Blair has branded Joe Biden an 'imbecile' over his 'tragic, dangerous, unnecessary' decision to withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan, and claimed that the move had 'every Jihadist group round the world cheering'

Tony Blair has branded Joe Biden an ‘imbecile’ over his ‘tragic, dangerous, unnecessary’ decision to withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan, and claimed that the move had ‘every Jihadist group round the world cheering’
Tony Blair has branded Joe Biden an 'imbecile' over his 'tragic, dangerous, unnecessary' decision to withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan, and claimed that the move had 'every Jihadist group round the world cheering'

Tony Blair has branded Joe Biden an ‘imbecile’ over his ‘tragic, dangerous, unnecessary’ decision to withdraw the US troops from Afghanistan, and claimed that the move had ‘every Jihadist group round the world cheering’
Mr Blair issued a stark warning to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the manner of the US' handling of the exit indicated the UK could be relegated from the top division of international powers, with reports Britain was largely kept in the dark about when American armed forces would leave

Mr Blair issued a stark warning to Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the manner of the US’ handling of the exit indicated the UK could be relegated from the top division of international powers, with reports Britain was largely kept in the dark about when American armed forces would leave
A U.S. Navy Corpsman with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force - Crisis Response - Central Command, hands out water to children during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport

A U.S. Navy Corpsman with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force – Crisis Response – Central Command, hands out water to children during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport
A baby is handed over to the American army over the perimeter wall of the airport for it to be evacuated, in Kabul

A baby is handed over to the American army over the perimeter wall of the airport for it to be evacuated, in Kabul
An evacuee holds up a peace sign after being manifested for a flight at Hamid Karzai International Airport

An evacuee holds up a peace sign after being manifested for a flight at Hamid Karzai International Airport
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighter stand guard on their respective sides at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighter stand guard on their respective sides at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan

Terror threat level should be raised to severe with threat of atrocity on UK soil ‘highly likely’ after Taliban takeover, former head of British forces in Afghanistan Colonel Richard Kemp warns

A jihadist atrocity on British soil is now ‘highly likely’ following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the UK’s terror threat level should be raised to ‘severe’, the former head of British forces in Afghanistan and Government counter-terrorism adviser has warned.

Colonel Richard Kemp claimed that the Taliban regime will allow al-Qaeda and so-called Islamic State terrorists to operate on Afghan territory they control – a key provision of the US withdrawal deal negotiated by Donald Trump last year – and launch attacks on the UK.

He warned there is an ‘immediately increased threat from British jihadists inspired and motivated by events in Afghanistan’ and urged the Government to ‘consider raising the UK threat level and increasing counter-terrorist assets available to the intelligence services and police’.

It is understood British and US Special Forces will establish secret bases in neighbouring countries which will be used to target any terrorist bases in Afghanistan in the weeks and months ahead.

The current national threat level – which is set by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which works with MI5 – is ‘substantial’ and the next level is ‘severe’. It was lowered from ‘severe’ in February following a spate of atrocities in Austria and France, including the murder of a teacher in Paris who showed a class a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad.

But Mr Blair urged for there to be ‘no repetition of arbitrary deadlines’ – a reference to Washington’s Doha agreement with the Taliban, committing to vacate Afghanistan in time for the 9/11 anniversary – in the rescue mission.

‘We must evacuate and give sanctuary to those to whom we have responsibility – those Afghans who helped us and stood by us and have a right to demand we stand by them,’ said the former Labour Party leader.

‘There must be no repetition of arbitrary deadlines. We have a moral obligation to keep at it until all those who need to be are evacuated. And we should do so not grudgingly but out of a deep sense of humanity and responsibility.’

Mr Blair defended his own decision making in 2001 when he worked with former US president George Bush and NATO allies to avenge the New York World Trade Centre attack. After the Taliban refused to evict al Qaeda, the terror group that masterminded the hijacking of the planes in 2001, Mr Blair said Western allies, who feared worse attacks were to come, felt there was ‘no safer alternative’ than to strike.

He continued: ‘There is no doubt that in the years that followed we made mistakes, some serious. But the reaction to our mistakes have been unfortunately further mistakes.

‘Today we are in a mood which seems to regard the bringing of democracy as a utopian delusion and intervention virtually of any sort as a fool’s errand. The world is now uncertain of where the West stands because it is so obvious that the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan in this way was driven not by grand strategy but by politics.

‘We didn’t need to do it. We chose to do it.

‘We did it in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars’, as if our engagement in 2021 was remotely comparable to our commitment 20 or even 10 years ago, in circumstances in which troop numbers had declined to a minimum and no allied soldier had lost their life in combat for 18 months.’

The former Middle East envoy said that, although ‘imperfect’, the ‘real gains over the past 20 years’ were likely to be lost following the Taliban victory, including advances in living standards, education particularly of girls, and other freedoms.

He called for the UK, in its role as president of the G7 this year, to help coordinate an international response to ‘hold the new regime to account’.

The UK Government has been working diplomatically to ensure there is no unilateral recognition of a Taliban government in Afghanistan, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab refusing to rule out applying sanctions if the militants renege on their promise to be more inclusive, especially in their attitudes towards women, than when last in control.

Mr Blair said: ‘We need to draw up a list of incentives, sanctions, actions we can take including to protect the civilian population so the Taliban understand their actions will have consequences. This is urgent. The disarray of the past weeks needs to be replaced by something resembling coherence and with a plan that is credible and realistic.’

The Prime Minister’s feelings about America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan have been variously described by sources as ‘furious’, ‘a betrayal’ and ‘let down’.

Downing Street dismisses the claims – it is in neither country’s interests to stoke tensions when the future of Afghanistan hangs in the balance – but there is little question that the UK has been left exposed by the speed of Washington’s pull-out.

No 10 also denies claims that the Prime Minister was disappointed by Mr Biden’s victory in the Presidential elections and had declared that it would have been ‘better’ if Donald Trump had won a second term, and say it is ‘categorically untrue’ that Mr Johnson employs the President’s derogatory nickname of Sleepy Joe during jocular conversations.

Speaking to Sky News today, Mr Blair said ‘the only people really cheering this decision are the people hostile to Western interests’ – listing among them the Chinese and Russian regimes.

‘We’ve got to realise we were in a situation where… we could’ve managed the situation,’ he said. ‘The problem with what’s happened now is that it’s not just about the Afghan people and our obligation to them… it’s about us and our security.

British soldiers desperately shouted for medics and stretchers, as unconscious people were carried away, many being pronounced dead and covered in white sheets

British soldiers desperately shouted for medics and stretchers, as unconscious people were carried away, many being pronounced dead and covered in white sheets
For some, it was here on this dusty road yesterday that their lives ended, crushed beneath the feet of stampeding families who, like them, were desperately seeking a way out of their benighted country

For some, it was here on this dusty road yesterday that their lives ended, crushed beneath the feet of stampeding families who, like them, were desperately seeking a way out of their benighted country
A soldier carries someone amid the chaos at Kabul airport in Afghanistan yesterday, with thousands desperate to flee the country

A soldier carries someone amid the chaos at Kabul airport in Afghanistan yesterday, with thousands desperate to flee the country
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighters stand guard on their respective sides at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Torkham, in Khyber district, Pakistan

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, right, and Taliban fighters stand guard on their respective sides at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan, in Torkham, in Khyber district, Pakistan
A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, front, and Taliban fighters, stand guard on their respective sides while a truck moves to cross at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan

A Pakistani paramilitary soldier, front, and Taliban fighters, stand guard on their respective sides while a truck moves to cross at a border crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan
Hundreds of Afghans desperately trying to flee the Taliban are pictured outside Kabul airport

Hundreds of Afghans desperately trying to flee the Taliban are pictured outside Kabul airport

UN warns Afghanistan faces ‘absolute catastrophe’ of famine, homelessness and economic ruin as Tory MP says organisation MUST be brought in to deal with Kabul airport chaos

The United Nations has warned that Afghanistan faces an ‘absolute catastrophe’ of famine, homelessness and economic ruin, as the Tory chairman of the Commons Defence Committee urged the organisation’s ‘immediate’ intervention before Kabul descends into ‘complete disorder’.

Mary-Ellen McGroarty, the UN’s World Food Programme’s country director for Afghanistan, told the Observer swift coordinated action was critical ‘otherwise, an already horrendous situation is just going to become an absolute catastrophe, a complete humanitarian disaster’.

She added: ‘We need to get supplies into the country, not only in terms of food, but the medical supplies, the shelter supplies. We need money and we need it now. Delay for the next six or seven weeks and it’s going to start becoming too late. People have nothing.

‘We have to get food in now and get it to the communities in the provinces, before roads are blocked by snow.’

Ex-Army officer Tobias Ellwood, who together with Tom Tugendhat and Johnny Mercer has been one of the most outspoken opponents of the scuttle, told Sky News: ‘If you do want to withdraw from a country you don’t pull out your military first and then choose to allow the civilians to depart.

‘This is the wrong order in which we’ve done things, and this situation is simply not sustainable, it’s getting worse every single day. The airport cannot manage this and with the terrorist threat growing the chances are the airport will implode.

‘What I will say is the United Nations and its agencies must be brought in immediately before complete disorder breaks down. The relationship between the US and the Taliban is very very fragile indeed, the US has frozen Afghanistan’s assets, the economy is in freefall.

‘Many of the civil servants that help run the country and indeed run the airport have already departed. We require some serious international leadership immediately.’

‘Because you’ve now got this group back in charge of Afghanistan. They will give protection and succour to al Qaeda, you’ve got ISIS (Islamic State) already in the country trying to operate at the same time. You look round the world and the only people really cheering this decision are the people hostile to Western interests.’

Mr Blair said the UK and its G7 allies will need to come up with a ‘strategy’ to deal with the Taliban regime to make sure ‘we don’t end up with a security threat’.

He added: ‘We should be putting together the leading countries who are part of this coalition in the first place and who have supported Afghanistan in the last 20 years and we need to work out what our strategy and tactics are going to be in respect of the Taliban government.

‘We need to be drawing up a list of incentives and sanctions and other things we can do in order to use the leverage we have, which is not insignificant. The Taliban will find that governing is a lot harder than they thought. The population of Afghanistan is different.

‘There’s going to be a lot that we can still do but it’s important that we mobilise now after the disarray frankly of the last few weeks, that we mobilise as the leading countries and make it clear that we still understand we have an obligation in our own interests to try and resolve this situation and to put as much pressure on the government in Afghanistan as possible to make sure that we don’t end up either with a security threat in play for us or with the Afghan people losing the gains they’ve made over the last 20 years.’

Across Whitehall and in British embassies around the world, officials and diplomats are adjusting to the fact that Mr Biden has adopted an America First policy every bit as isolationist as his predecessor’s.

There are also whispered concerns that the 78-year-old might be, in the words of one Government source, ‘a bit doolally’ – unable to exert full executive grip on the White House and with a world view forged decades ago and out of step with the demands of leadership in the 2020s.

The Times claimed yesterday that Mr Johnson finds Mr Biden ‘lightweight and inward-looking’.

Observers of the two men’s relationship believe that there is a degree of wariness, with Mr Biden regarding Mr Johnson as a ‘mini-Trump’ because of his personality-driven style of politics and the pair talking far less frequently than Mr Johnson and Mr Trump did.

There are also policy differences, with Washington reluctant to accede to the UK’s demand to ramp up spending on ‘green’ policies ahead of the COP26 climate change summit being hosted by the UK in November.

Of particular irritation in London during the Afghan endgame has been the fact that British military commanders have been cut out of discussions between the US and the Taliban.

But a No 10 source said yesterday that Mr Johnson had not expressed any anger over the US withdrawal, and said the two men had enjoyed a ‘warm and constructive’ phone conversation on Tuesday evening.

A Downing Street spokesman said: ‘These claims are categorically untrue. The Prime Minister has not criticised President Biden, and they have a very strong working relationship.

The President’s first call to a leader outside of North America after his election win was to the Prime Minister.

They have worked together on a range of issues, including at the recent G7, where they secured an additional one billion Covid vaccine doses for developing countries, and signed the Carbis Bay Declaration to improve global health co-operation and prevent future pandemics’.

President Biden cancelled plans to spend the weekend at his home in Delaware. Instead he is meeting his national security team ‘to hear intelligence, security and diplomatic updates on the evolving situation in Afghanistan,’ the White House said.

Lord Ricketts, who served as the Government’s first national security adviser from 2010 to 2012 under former prime minister David Cameron, said the UK will need to ‘rethink’ its foreign policy stance following the United States’ handling of the Afghanistan withdrawal.

Speaking to Times Radio, he said: ‘It has been a humiliating period for the UK. I’m afraid we’ve learnt that (US President) Joe Biden has put US politics ahead of NATO alliance solidarity and Britain hasn’t counted for much in that decision, if anything at all.

‘The hard fact is we are going to need to continue to work with the Americans in all sorts of areas and this has been a difficult experience, but we need to bring the Americans back to working with their allies, taking account of our views.

‘But we can’t somehow invent a foreign policy without the Americans so we’ve got to take a deep breath and do some frank talking to Joe Biden and then get back to work with him.’

The former chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee continued: ‘We need to rethink a lot of that rhetoric in the integrated review published by the Government a few months ago about Britain as an independent sovereign operator, turning the dial on international crises.

‘We have shown actually that we are pretty impotent in a situation where the Americans take a decision – we have little choice but to follow.’

 

DEFENCE SECRETARY BEN WALLACE: The American deadline is looming… we have no time to lose to get people out

By Ben Wallace, Defence Secretary, for the Mail on Sunday 

For everyone involved, the last few months have been an exhausting, worrying and demanding time.

The unedifying exit of the West from Afghanistan will have consequences for us all for years to come.

As Defence Secretary I have been incredibly proud of the work done by my civil servants and military personnel.

From before the collapse of the Afghan government to the present, four Ministry of Defence civil servants alone have handled the process and faced thousands of fearful Afghans.

They did so often at risk to themselves. Alongside them a small band of 150 military secured their part of the airport.

We are able to do what we are doing today because of them and because of the immense effort and support of our closest allies, the United States.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says he is 'incredibly proud of the work done by my civil servants and military personnel'

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace says he is ‘incredibly proud of the work done by my civil servants and military personnel’

Our force has now grown to over 1,000 troops, Home Office border officials and embassy staff.

The US has surged to close to 6,000 military personnel. Only last week, as the crisis deepened, I had departmental civil servants volunteering to deploy.

The Parachute Regiment at the airport are dealing with unimaginable challenges. Public order, overcrowding, searing heat and desperate people. Soldiers trained for war are instead holding babies and co-ordinating crowds.

Despite all this we are getting people out – more than 1,000 in the past 24 hours alone.

But be under no illusion, as one problem is solved a new one appears. At first we worried whether the airport would remain open, then if those coming to Britain would able to get to the airport. Next came overcrowding.

One by one, our commanders, Brigadier Dan Blanchard and Vice Admiral Ben Key, removed the problems.

Today’s problem is different. Too many people in the airport has meant a suspension of access. I am confident that, too, will be fixed or mitigated, but until it is the crowds will get bigger.

And ticking along, impossible to stop, is time. 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. The Home Secretary and I have been planning the next stage.

Firstly, it is important to note that the scheme is not time- limited. We shall stand by our obligations and are investigating now how to process people from third countries and refugee camps.

Pictured: Afghan people gather along a road as they wait to board an evacuation aircraft to leave the country

Pictured: Afghan people gather along a road as they wait to board an evacuation aircraft to leave the country

We will establish a series of processing hubs across the region outside Afghanistan for those Afghans we have an obligation to bring to this country.

As far back as April, we relocated an Afghan family from a Greek refugee camp. People must not despair.

As I write, we are exploring ways to keep a presence in the country after the military are gone. There is much work to do to ensure conditions are right.

If the US timetable remains, we have no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out. We have the planes – we just need the flow.

Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer, and they will have our complete support if they do.

Soldiers often witness the worst of humanity and the best of humanity. I know I did on my operational tours.

Right now, the best resides in the men and women of the Army, RAF and Royal Navy risking their lives to save others

%d bloggers like this: