Last UK evacuation flight from Kabul 'within days': minister
The last evacuation flights for British citizens and Afghan allies out of Taliban-controlled Kabul could be on Sunday, said the UK minister for the armed forces.
James Haeappey MP said the UK’s “air bridge” - emergency flights out of the capital - could operate for "two more days, five more days, ten more days".
Haeappey, a former soldier turned politician, told BBC Four’s Today programme: “The sad truth is….we don’t have it in our gift to stay there until absolutely everyone is out.”
The minister said the UK was aiming to evacuate 1,000 people a day from Afghanistan.
963 people were “successfully moved out of Kabul” on Thursday with the help of UK forces, said Haeappey. People are “working their socks off” to make this happen, he added.
The UK ambassador to Afghanistan, who is in Kabul processing visa applications, said on Wednesday that his team “are working on the basis of days, not weeks” when asked how long evacuation efforts are likely to last.
"We're trying to scale up the speed, the pace, over the next couple of days, we'll put everything we can on this for the next few days, trying to get out everyone who we need to get to safety as soon as we can," said ambassador Laurie Bristow.
The planned departure date for American forces is August 31, and UK ministers had been working on the assumption that they had until the same deadline, according to The Times.
However, US President Joe Biden said in an interview on Wednesday that US troops will stay in Afghanistan until every American is evacuated, even if that means maintaining a military presence beyond August 31.
“If there’s American citizens left, we’re gonna stay till we get them all out,” Biden said.
The UK is working with American troops to protect and secure Kabul’s airport.
Thousands of Afghans gathered at Kabul's Hamid Karzai International Airport in days following Kabul's capture after rumours circulated that foreign countries were evacuating people even without visas.