Afghanistan: British ambassador home as last UK troops leave

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Writing in the Sunday Telegraph, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the UK was ready to consider sanctions against the militants - but this would “depend on the choices the Taliban make on key issues” - including on enabling safe passage out of the country.

UK ambassador to Afghanistan says time has come to end airlift

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A British Royal Airforce Voyager aircraft a carrying members of the British armed forces 16 Air Assault Brigade arrives at Brize Norton, Britain August 28, 2021. Alastair Grant/ Pool via REUTERS

LONDON, Aug 28 (Reuters) - Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, said on Saturday that the time had come to end an airlift which had evacuated almost 15,000 Afghan and British citizens over the past two weeks.

“It’s time to close this phase of the operation down but we haven’t forgotten the people who still need to leave, and we will do everything we can to help them,” he said in a statement at Kabul airport released by Britain’s foreign ministry.

Reporting by David Milliken; Editing by Angus MacSwan

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Afghanistan Ambassador lands in UK after being evacuated from Kabul

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Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Laurie Bristow arrived on one of the last flights carrying UK military and civilian personnel on their final homeward leg back from Afghanistan.

A Voyager aircraft touched down at RAF Brize Norton airfield in Oxfordshire on Sunday morning.

Roughly 250 personnel were on board, including members of 16 Air Assault Brigade who were stationed at Kabul airport.

The plane flew in from Al Minhad airfield in the United Arab Emirates near Dubai where the UK’s evacuation flights from Afghanistan first landed.

Further flights carrying personnel are expected later on Sunday.

Speaking from the base, Vice-Admiral Ben Key, Chief of Joint Operations, who commands Operation Pitting, said: “Although the United Kingdom’s Operation Pitting finishes today, of course the United States are still engaged in their own withdrawal and I would be very nervous in saying we had completed a successful withdrawal from Afghanistan until all our allies and partners have returned.

“The United States has provided the framework for security in Kabul as part of a huge international effort and so operations continue even if the UK’s particular contribution concludes today.”

On the fact that not everyone eligible for evacuation from Kabul could be rescued, he said: “That is both true and a matter of great sadness for all of us that have been involved in this.

“Whilst we recognise and I pay testament to the achievement of everything that has been achieved by coalition forces, but particularly the British contingent, over the last two weeks, in the end we know that there are some really sad stories of people who have desperately tried to leave that we have – no matter how hard our efforts – we have been unsuccessful in evacuating.”

Vice-Admiral Key added: “There has been a phenomenal effort achieved in the last two weeks. And I think we always knew that somewhere we would fall just short.

“So, this isn’t a moment of celebration for us at all, this is a moment to mark a tremendous international effort to evacuate as many people as we could in the time available.

“That sense of sadness that we haven’t done all we would have wished and we will continue to work … in the future with the next leadership of Afghanistan, with the Taliban, and others to make sure those who would wish to come back to his country continue to have an opportunity to do so.

“Sadly, we have just not been able to evacuate them under this framework.”

Vice-Admiral Key said pictures from the airlifts showed UK service personnel were “deeply tired” having “given their all over the last two weeks”.

He said: “Some of the pictures that have come back in the last few days have painted a really good impression of just how desperate and difficult those conditions have been in the last few weeks.

“The pictures of them sitting in the aircraft coming back, these are deeply tired people who have given of their all over the last two weeks. They have travelled with very little equipment – we didn’t allow them to carry much kit – and in many cases they have lived in the clothes they have been wearing for many days.

“They have been sleeping in rough conditions, eating off ration packs and their sole motivation has been to help as many of the Afghans and British entitled personnel as they possibly could.

“It’s been a combination of deep professionalism, considerable courage, really sophisticated judgment and, on occasion, huge compassion, and it’s been difficult for those of us back here not to just have the most enormous admiration for what they’ve done and how they’ve gone about it.”

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