UK's Afghan ambassador says Taliban supporting evacuation plans

Laurie Bristow believes group sees it as 'in their interests' to assist operation

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Britain is working with the Taliban in Kabul on a "tactical, practical level" to evacuate citizens and eligible Afghans, the UK's ambassador to Afghanistan said on Wednesday.

Western nations are rushing to get diplomats, civilians and eligible Afghans out of Kabul as the Taliban makes first efforts to set up a government after their lightning sweep into the capital.

"It is interesting the Taliban have chosen to support this operation," ambassador Laurie Bristow told reporters in a TV clip filmed from Kabul.

"My assessment is that they see it as in their interests to help it to happen in an orderly and clear way. And obviously it's in our interests to see it that way, so we're working with them where we need to at a tactical, practical level."

Asked how long he expected the evacuation effort to last, he said: "We're working on the basis of days, not weeks."

Mr Bristow posted on Twitter a photograph from what he called the 'Evacuation Handling Centre' showing staff in military fatigues hunched over a laptop while an armed soldier looked on.

"Yesterday we got about 700 people out," he said in the video posted on Wednesday.

"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."

When asked on Wednesday whether Britain hoped to take 1,000 people out of Afghanistan a day, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman told reporters they were "aiming to operate at that capacity".

Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel revealed details of the UK's resettlement initiative for displaced Afghans. The government will offer a pathway for up to 20,000 in the coming years, with an initial 5,000 places in the first year.

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Updated: August 18th 2021, 3:40 PM
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