United Kingdom Enters ‘Final Hours’ Of Evacuation In Afghanistan: Defense Secretary

LONDON — Ben Wallace, UK Defense Secretary, on Aug. 27 said the nation’s evacuation mission in on the “final hours” in Afghanistan, four days prior to the Aug. 31 deadline by the Taliban.

“We at 4:30 this morning, UK-time, closed the Baron Hotel, shut the processing center and the gates were closed at Abbey gate,” he said.

“We will process the people that we have brought with us, the 1,000 people approximately in the airfield now and we will seek a way to continue to find a few people in the crowds where we can, but overall the main processing is now closed and we have a matter of hours.”

The sad part is, not everyone will be able to get out, Wallace said. The threat will increase as they get closer to leaving.

People eligible to be resettled in the UK will be left behind as the final British flights leave on Aug. 27, following an attack on Baron hotel that closed just hours after an attack. The attack was claimed by the terrorist organization, ISIS-K, and claimed the lives of 13 US troops and 78 Afghans.

Wallace said the night before the attack, the British army has pushed a perimeter away from the Barons Hotel by about 300 meters.

“If they had not pushed that perimeter further out we would be in a worse place,” he said.

Earlier on Aug. 26, Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, said that the United Kingdom will continue its evacuation operation from Kabul despite the attack near Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“I utterly condemn the barbaric terrorist attack in Kabul in which Afghans and members of the US military lost their lives,” tweeted Johnson.

“The threat of terrorist attack is one of the constraints we’ve been operating under, but our evacuation effort continues with over 12,000 extracted so far.”

Johnson said his government has “already extracted the overwhelming majority” of people eligible for evacuation to the UK from Afghanistan.

“We’re going to continue with that operation, and we’re now coming towards the end of it, to the very end of it,” Johnson said.

“What this attack shows is the importance of continuing that work in as fast and as efficient a manner as possible in the hours that remain to us, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

Johnson said that he is very proud of the incredible Armed Forces who are working flat out to support the evacuation operation in Kabul.

Meanwhile, officials said that a new threat of vehicle-borne improvised IED (VBIED) at the North Gate of Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul.

Four US Marines are among the 35 people reportedly killed in twin bomb blasts outside Kabul airport on Aug. 26. The first blast was reported at the Abbey Gate in Kabul airport, while the second was near the Baron Hotel.

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby confirmed the development saying that “a number of US service members” were killed in today’s complex attack at Kabul airport.

Meanwhile, the US embassy has issued a fresh warning in Kabul.

Back in Washington, US President Joe Biden met with top officials of his administration on Aug. 26 as two explosions were reported in Kabul. Biden met with his national security team this morning, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff Mark Milley, and commanders on the ground.

Meanwhile, the Taliban has condemned the bombing of civilians at Kabul airport after reports suggested that an ISIS suicide bomber was responsible for the explosion outside the Kabul airport.

French President Emmanuel Macron has said that the situation in Kabul has seriously deteriorated, and his country is coordinating with US allies to evacuate a maximum number of people.

“France associates itself with the grief of the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks in Kabul,” said Macron in a tweet.

“Those who lead the evacuation operations are heroes. We will complete these operations and maintain our activities overtime to protect the Afghans at risk.”

“We are confronted with a very tense situation, and we are coordinating with our American allies,” Macron said while addressing a joint news conference with the Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin.

Macron’s remarks came in the wake of the twin explosions on Aug.26 in the Afghan capital in which at least 90 people were killed and over 150 injured, as per the latest reports.

Jens Stoltenberg, chief of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, has condemned the Kabul attack and vowed to continue evacuations from Afghanistan.

“I strongly condemn the horrific terrorist attack outside #Kabul airport. My thoughts are with all those affected and their loved ones. Our priority remains to evacuate as many people to safety as quickly as possible,” tweeted Stoltenberg.

Earlier, there was one explosion outside the Kabul airport and another near a hotel in the Afghanistan capital.

An ISIS suicide bomber was responsible for the explosion outside the Kabul airport, said sources.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to hold emergency talks over the Kabul explosion.

Johnson will chair an emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms meeting, following an explosion at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, CNN reported quoting a Downing Street spokesperson as saying.

In a recent development, the Belgian federal government made a decision on Aug. 25 evening to end all evacuations from Kabul airport over suicide bomb threat, Prime Minister Alexander De Croo said.

“The federal government has taken the decision to put an end to the evacuations from Kabul airport, in view of the development of the situation in Afghanistan and in agreement with the European partners,” tweeted Croo.

“Five flights were still able to be operated between Kabul and Islamabad on Wednesday.”

“Safety has always been our priority. The situation deteriorated dramatically on Wednesday. We obtained information from an American source that there was a risk of a bomb attack (at Kabul airport),” said the prime minister.

However, he said that does not mean that it is the end of the assistance we can provide to the Afghans.

“What is happening in Afghanistan is a tragedy. Images of human suffering in recent days are very harsh and very moving,” said Minister of Foreign Affairs Sophie Wilmes.

As per Wilmes, “during the six-day operation, 1,100 people under Belgian responsibility have been evacuated from Kabul to Islamabad.”

As per the Belgian Ministry of Defence, two planes with evacuees on board landed on Belgian soil on Aug.25 morning. One Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft had 196 people on board, while an Air Belgium flight brought 272 people back to the country.

Seven flights from Islamabad to Melsbroek Military Airport in Belgium have been in operation, with people evacuated from Kabul on board.

Canada has also ended airlifts from war-ravaged Afghanistan on Aug. 25, said the acting chief of the defense staff, General Wayne Eyre.

The Immigration Department sent a notice that evacuation operations are done and “at this time, no further evacuation flights are being planned.”

General Wayne Eyre said that most Canadians left the country eight hours ago, although a small contingent is there to help allies.

“Until such a time that the security situation stabilizes, be mindful of the security environment and, where possible, take the necessary steps to ensure your security and that of your family,” he said.

So far, Canada has evacuated more than 37,000 people in total from Afghanistan.

On Aug. 25, the Danish air force also finished flights out of Kabul and evacuated over 1,000 people since the Taliban took over, the Danish Defense Ministry said.

“I can confirm that the last Danish Hercules plane tonight landed in Islamabad with approx,” tweeted Trine Bramsen, Minister of Defense of Denmark.

“90 evacuees as well as Danish soldiers and diplomats. Impressive effort from @forsvaretdk and all other authorities.”

“The last Danish Hercules plane has taken off from Kabul. Since Aug. 15, the Danish air force has taken more than 1,000 people out of Afghanistan,” the ministry said.

On Aug. 15, Afghanistan fell under the control of the Taliban, prompting many countries to begin evacuating their citizens and diplomats, as well as limited numbers of local collaborators. Thousands of people have stormed the Kabul airport in the hope of getting out.

Poland and Belgium ended their evacuations from Afghanistan on Aug. 25, among the other countries. Spain became the latest country to stop its evacuation, as informed by Spain’s ministry of defense.

“Army @EjercitoTierra, Air Force @EjercitoAire@policia, and @SpainMFA @EmbEspKabul diplomats head home as evacuations in Kabul come to an end,” read their tweet.

The Netherlands halted evacuation flights from Kabul on Thursday, and Prime Minister Mark Rutte said that the US has asked the Dutch to leave Kabul airport before Aug. 31.

(With inputs from ANI)

Edited by Saptak Datta and Ritaban Misra

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