UK says hundreds of its nationals remained in Afghanistan
The number of British nationals left in Afghanistan is in âsmall hundreds,â British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Tuesday after the end of the Western military presence of two decades.
Raab added that he was unable to give an exact figure for the number of British nationals and others potentially eligible to leave Afghanistan who were not evacuated after the Taliban takeover.
“It is very difficult to give you a firm figure,” he told BBC radio hours after the last American troops left the country.
Britain completed its airlifts from Kabul airport on Saturday.
“I can tell you that for UK nationals we have obtained since April over 5,000, and we are in the few hundred (remaining),” Raab said.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised Britain’s evacuation efforts as they ended over the weekend, noting that he had airlifted more than 15,000 people in the past two weeks.
But his government has faced scathing criticism of its handling of the crisis, prompted by the decision of its ally the United States to end 20 years of Afghan presence.
This led to the Taliban regaining power earlier this month – and the West rushed out of the country amid chaotic scenes.
Critics have argued that the return of the Taliban and the hasty withdrawal of Western forces left Afghanistan open to once again become a haven for terrorism, 20 years after the 9/11 attacks.
In particular, fears are growing that the Afghan branch of the Islamic State, which claimed responsibility for last week’s suicide bombing that left dozens of Afghans and 13 American soldiers, could strengthen there.
British Air Force Chief Air Marshal Mike Wigston suggested on Tuesday that the country’s military would continue to target Islamic State – also known as Daesh – at the interior of Afghanistan despite the total withdrawal of the West.
“We must be able to play a global role in the global coalition to defeat Daesh, whether it is strikes or the movement of troops or equipment in a particular country, on a large scale and at high speed,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“If there is an opportunity for us to contribute, I have no doubt that we will be ready to do so,” Wigston added.
âAfghanistan is probably one of the most inaccessible regions in the world, and we can operate there.