UK’s rescue mission in Kabul ‘gathering pace’

Ambassador Laurie Bristow says more than 5,000 people have been flown to safety

The UK’s evacuation from Kabul is gathering pace with 1,000 people rescued from Afghanistan in the space of 14 hours, its ambassador said on Sunday.

Laurie Bristow, who has been widely praised for staying in Kabul to process evacuations, said 5,000 people had been flown to safety.

The UK has sent 600 troops to help British citizens, embassy staff and Afghan civilians who helped Nato leave the country.

“Our soldiers, our diplomats, our border force have been working round the clock,” Mr Bristow said. “But there is still a huge amount of work to do.”

The ambassador said he was “so proud of what our people our doing” as Nato forces secure the airport to complete the withdrawal.

Britain has set out plans to take in 20,000 Afghan refugees over five years, a figure critics say is too low.

At least seven people were killed amid the chaos at Kabul’s international airport as people try to flee the Taliban.

Taliban fighters have set up checkpoints in the city, raising concerns for Afghan staff with documentation that links them to Nato forces.

There is growing concern over an August 31 deadline set by Washington to complete the evacuation.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said it would be “mathematically impossible” to complete the rescue mission by that date.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Sunday that a meeting of G7 leaders to discuss Afghanistan would take place on Tuesday.

The management of Afghan refugees is expected to be on the agenda, with European leaders determined to prevent a wave of illegal migration.

Politicians in Europe want Afghanistan’s neighbours and other nearby countries, such as Turkey, to accept refugees and limit the number entering western countries.

Mr Johnson spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday. The two leaders called for the UN to co-ordinate the process.

They “shared the view that any new government must be representative of Afghanistan’s diverse population,” Mr Johnson’s office said.

Updated: August 22nd 2021, 5:01 PM