UK Govt: Despite Western Exit, ‘Phase Two’ Afghan Evacuation Continues, Taliban Cooperation Permitting

British Armed Forces personnel disembark a British Royal Air Force Boeing C-17A Globemaster III aircraft after landing at Brize Norton station, southern England, on August 29, 2021 after returning from deployment as part of Operation Pitting to evacuate British nationals and eligible personnel from Afghanistan. - The UK government on …
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Despite having already evacuated some 15,000 people from Afghanistan in two weeks, the United Kingdom government says the effort to extricate eligible individuals has not ended and will continue under Taliban control of the country.

Speaking to UK broadcasters as part of the British government’s daily media blitz, Minister of State for Middle East and North Africa and Army Reserve Lieutenant Colonel James Cleverly explained despite the intense period of evacuation from Kabul airport now being over, efforts would still continue for the UK. Speaking in the terms raised by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Afghanistan’s evacuation “phase one” being over and moving now into the second phase, Cleverly told Comcast’s Sky News on Monday morning that:

…although the immediate evacuation process using Kabul airport has now come to a close …we will of course continue to work through applications of people who have contacted us, people who are still trying to get out of Afghanistan, as I say the repatriation and evacuation effort has not finished just because Kabul airport has closed to us.

Cleverly said the vast majority of British citizens were now out of Afghanistan, making clear that the continued evacuation effort would most likely focus on bringing Afghans to Britain.

The minister also conceded the difficult situation those eligible individuals for UK assistance now faced, and the degree to which Britain would have to cooperate with Afghanistan’s new master. He said:

The fact of the matter is the Taliban hold large parts of the geography of Afghanistan, and just as the initial part of the plan through Kabul airport was to a certain extent done in conjunction with the Taliban, we know that we are going to have to work with them to an extent. What we’re not going to do is just assume good faith in every respect, we’re going to judge them on their actions, we’re going to hold them to account if they fall short… we’re going to keep working to get people who need to get out of Afghanistan, out of Afghanistan… it’s an impossible number to put a number on [how many people that will eventually end up being].

When asked the degree to which developments in recent weeks had imperilled the security of the British homeland, Lt. Col. Cleverly was less willing to speak openly. Remarking the government will “have to keep a very, very close eye on what’s happening”, the minister was moved only to remark: “Well, obviously there’s information that I’m not able to discuss on the television today, but obviously, we are keeping a very close eye on the security and counter-terrorism situation in Afghanistan.”

The United Kingdom’s final evacuation flight left Afghanistan on Saturday, leaving just the United States in place in Kabul to complete their final evacuation. In all, the UK’s evacuation flights had carried more than 15,000 people out, which previous government figures suggest were majority Afghan nationals.

Among the last Britons out of Afghanistan was the recently-installed British ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow, who had been running the temporary British embassy in Kabul airport as it facilitated the withdrawal before shutting completely. Nevertheless, there are still some British citizens in Afghanistan, reports claim.

There are also questions over whether valuable seats on flights out of Afghanistan may have gone to those not eligible, or deserving. Several reports from across Europe have highlighted individuals with terror concerns, or previously deported serious criminals making their way to Europe on evacuation flights. In other cases, Afghans arriving have been found to have forged paperwork or no papers at all.

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