‘IT IS OVER,’ Tory defence secretary Ben Wallace admitted yesterday over the UK’s Afghan debacle.
He added: ‘It is with deep regret that not everyone has been able to be evacuated during this process.’
He conceded that around 800 to 1,100 eligible pro-British Afghans would be left behind, as well as approximately 100 to 150 British nationals, some of whom he said were staying willingly.
Looking on the ‘bright side’ of the debacle the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said closing processing facilities would enable the UK to focus efforts on evacuating those who were already at the airport ready to leave.
Wallace said eight to nine more flights would come into Kabul to evacuate around 1,000 UK troops who remained inside the airfield.
His comments come after two explosions hit Kabul airport on Thursday, killing at least 90 people, among them 13 US military personnel.
In the interview with the BBC it was put to him that ‘this was the moment you dreaded, the moment when you would have to say “no more”.’
Wallace claimed: ‘The attacks were horrendous yesterday but our plan was to leave last night, I knew it was going to happen at some stage.
‘We have ended up with a remarkable achievement, but it hasn’t brought every single person out …
‘… We won’t get everyone out, but a significant chunk has gone out.’
He was asked to confirm: ‘As you talk to me this morning the gates are shut both literally and metaphorically. This moment of people trying to get out is over.’
Wallace replied: ‘It is over on that route for the short time. The G7 met and we were very clear that we wanted to put pressure on the Taliban to do a number of things, one was to make sure that routes through and out of this country were maintained, that the Taliban give passage to our people.’
On equipment he said: ‘I needed as many hours as possible to get Afghan and British nationals out and the trade off is how much kit do we take out and how much do we leave on the ground, or destroy on the ground so that no one else can use them.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer commented the UK government ‘must take its fair share of the responsibility’ for people being left behind and ‘has serious questions to answer about how, despite having 18 months to prepare, their failure to plan and inability to influence others has contributed to this tragic political failure.’
Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Lisa Nandy, said the incident ‘raised serious questions’ about what her government counterpart, Dominic Raab, had been doing in the hours before Kabul fell to the Taliban. He was on holiday at the time refusing to take calls from the Afghan government just before it fell.