UK seeking safe passage from Afghanistan after withdrawal of troops

By Hamed Chapman

London (The Muslim News): Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, has accepted that British troops in Afghanistan will leave by the end of August in line with the agreement made between the US and Taliban after their seizure of the country but is hoping that Kabul airport will “go back to being functional.”

In a series of interviews Wednesday, Raab said 9,000 British nationals, Afghans who worked for British forces and those at risk, journalists and Chevening scholars have been evacuated from Afghanistan since August 15 but admitted the evacuation will not be complete next week.

“We would like to see Kabul airport go back to being functional. That will require the security on the ground, it will require it to be done safely, and of course it will require the Taliban to live up to their assurances about allowing safe passage out,” he told Sky News.

“It’s clear that the troops will be withdrawn by the end of the month” the Foreign Secretary told BBC Breakfast after being asked about the August 31 deadline and US President Joe Biden insisting that the sooner the evacuation is finished the better after refusing to extend the date.

On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, he said it was unclear how many people will be left behind in Afghanistan once British troops withdraw but was “not going to speculate on that while we’re in the middle of withdrawals.”

“The United Kingdom retains the right to exercise self-defence in relation to our nationals in our country. We’re not getting into speculating about that,” Raab insisted

“What remains are rather complex cases, large family units where one or other may be documented or may be clearly a national, but it’s not clear whether the rest of them are,” he had told Sky News after insisting that “almost all” single-nationality UK citizens who want to leave Afghanistan have been brought home.

At a virtual G7 emergency summit on Tuesday, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, failed to convince Biden to extend next week’s deadline after he rejected both domestic pleas and from international allies to keep troops in Afghanistan to continue evacuation efforts beyond the end of the month.

“We are currently on a pace to finish by August the 31st,” the President said in a White House statement. “The sooner we can finish, the better. Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.”

“The immediate phase of the evacuation is actually being a very considerable success by the military and I think most people looking at the numbers that we have got out would say it was quite remarkable,” Johnson continued to claim despite his failure.

Asked about the need to start withdrawing British troops in the next day or two in advance of the deadline, Raab said could not give precise details “because we want to make sure we use every last hour.”

The Foreign Secretary, who has been under pressure to resign for not returning immediately from his holiday as Taliban were taking over Afghanistan, told the BBC that “with hindsight” he would not have gone to Crete but insisted he was “caught unawares” by the speed of the advance.

The evacuation of Afghanistan is one of the biggest airlifts in history and has been compared with the US scampering to get out of Vietnam in 1975 after the fall of Saigon and the humiliation the British suffered when the US refused to militarily intervene during the 1956 Suez Crisis.

[Archive Photo: Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab speaking in House of Commons during a debate. Photographer: UK Parliament Jessica Taylor Copyright]

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