Duchess of Cambridge meets RAF crew who evacuated Afghans from Kabul

Her Royal Highness hears first-hand from service members about Operation Pitting

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The Duchess of Cambridge has met RAF aircrews and medics who helped evacuate thousands of Afghans from their country following the Taliban takeover.

The duchess, 39, arrived by helicopter at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire this afternoon to meet military personnel and civilians involved in the rescue efforts.

After the Taliban swept into Kabul on August 15, thousands of people descended on the city’s airport in a bid to flee the insurgents.

As part of Operation Pitting, Britain airlifted some 15,000 Afghans including 850 who arrived at RAF Brize Norton where they were given practical support like food, clothing, children’s toys and medical help while their details were processed.

The duchess was dressed in navy trousers, a white top and a beige blazer for her meeting.

Servicemen and women greeted her with a salute before she was seen laughing and chatting with them while observing social distancing.

Kate is married to Britain’s Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge, a former RAF search and rescue pilot.

In 2013 he left his role to pursue charity work following a seven-year career in the military.

Operation Pitting involved every unit at the military base, with personnel working alongside the Royal Navy, Army, local authorities and aid organisations in Afghanistan and the UK.

Thousands of applicants and their dependents were transported out of the country under the Arap (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) scheme.

Brize Norton’s full fleet of RAF transport aircraft flew around the clock to support the evacuation, including a record flight for an RAF C17 Globemaster which carried 439 passengers out of Kabul.

Aircraft involved in the operation also carried supplies ranging from clothing and baby food for the evacuees.

The scheme was set up in April to relocate Afghan interpreters and other people who worked for the UK government and British Army in Afghanistan.

Initially, successful applicants were offered a permit for five years’ residency but the government later changed this to permanent residency.

The Duchess of Cambridge chats to an RAF service member during a visit to RAF Brize Norton to meet military personnel and civilians who helped evacuate Afghans from their country. Picture: PA

In addition to the Arap scheme, the government announced they will allow a total of 20,000 Afghans to settle in the UK in the long-term.

Women, children and religious and ethnic minorities who are considered at greater risk from the Taliban will be given priority.

The Home Office has said councils who offer to support Afghan refugees will be given £20,520 per person, over three years, for resettlement and integration costs.

Some £4,500 per child will also be provided for education, £850 to cover English language courses for adults and £2,600 to cover healthcare.

And the previously announced Afghan Housing Costs Fund will increase from £5 million to £17 million and run for two extra years to help local authorities provide housing.

Updated: November 22, 2021, 8:40 AM