Heartbreaking, challenging: UK military chief on Afghanistan evacuation
- The final UK evacuation flight for Afghan nationals left the Kabul airport on Saturday
- UK has evacuated 14,543 people from Kabul since August 13
- 1,100 people eligble for evacuation were left behind
The head of United Kingdom's armed forces, General Sir Nick Carter, has spoken about the "heartbreaking" moments his military had to endure during the evacuation process in Afghanistan. The final UK evacuation flight for Afghan nationals left the Kabul airport on Saturday after two weeks of chaotic scenes which included the death of at least a dozen people in stampedes and firing, and the killing of another 90, including US military personnel, in a bombing and gun attack.
On Friday, the Ministry of Defence said the UK had evacuated 14,543 people from Kabul since August 13, two days before the Taliban seized the capital city and ousted the Ashraf Ghani-led government from power. These include British nationals and nearly 8,000 Afghans eligible for evacuation under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme, out of which up to 1,100 eligible people were left behind, according to the defence secretary, Ben Wallace.
General Nick, chief of the defence staff, told Radio 4's Today programme that UK had almost completed the evacuation and was only left with bringing "our troops out on the remaining aircraft."
He said while the evacuation had gone "as well as it could do in the circumstances... but we haven't been able to bring everybody out and that has been heartbreaking." He also referred to the "challenging judgements that have had to be made on the ground."
More than 1,000 UK troops have been helping over 6,000 of their American counterparts with the evacuation at Kabul airport.
British ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Laurie Bristow, tweeted that it was "time to close this phase of the operation now".
"But we haven't forgotten the people who still need to leave. We'll continue to do everything we can to help them," he added.
General Nick said the number of Afghans who were eligible to come to the UK but were left behind was in the "high hundreds". Some might not have wanted to take the risk or been unable to travel to the airport, he added. "We are forever receiving messages and texts from our Afghan friends that are very distressing. So we're all living this in the most painful way," he said.
He also said that people who hadn't been able to leave via evacuation flights but were able to get out another way "will always be welcome in Britain".