AROUND 2,000 Brits are waiting to be evacuated from Taliban-routed Afghanistan, Dominic Raab revealed this morning.
Fresh from a 6am intelligence sit-rep, the Foreign Secretary said 350 UK nationals and Afghans who served our troops would be jetted out today.
He said the chaos at Kabul airport was “stabilising” following a stampede of the runway by terrified Afghans desperate to flee the violent militants.
Taliban fighters now control almost all of the country and have begun brutal public executions, according to reports.
Boris Johnson’s second-in-command admitted today: “Everyone was caught off-guard by the pace and scale of the Taliban takeover.”
In key Afghanistan developments:
- President Joe Biden insisted he was right to pull troops out of Afghanistan – but lumped blame on the country’s army
- Around 640 Afghans crammed onto a US military plane bound for Qatar
- Downing St announced plans for a bespoke resettlement scheme to take in thousands of refugees
- Mr Raab defended being on holiday as the Taliban marched on Kabul
Another British plane carrying evacuees touched down at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire this morning.
The 350 due to be rescued from the seized capital in the next 24 hours is on top of 150 Brits evacuated on Sunday and 289 Afghans over the last week.
Mapping out the evacuation strategy, the Foreign Sec said: “Given the Taliban takeover, given the nervousness and the fear on the ground, you’ve seen a lot of people effectively heading for the door, and we’ve got to make sure that we can stabilise the situation.
“I think ultimately British people would expect us to prioritise our nationals, including dual nationals in Afghanistan, but also those who so loyally served us.”
As well as bringing home Brits and Afghan allies – like military interpreters and contractors – the Government will also provide sanctuary for refugees.
Mr Raab remained tight-lipped as to how many asylum seekers the UK will accept, but said “we’re a big-hearted nation” – and pointed to his own father’s flight from Czechoslovakia in the 1930s.
Shock of public executions, floggings and forcing young girls to be sex slaves have left Western viewers watching on in horror.
The Taliban’s lightning rout of the country and power-grab came after allied forces withdrew following Donald Trump’s deal last year.
Mr Raab said he didn’t “trust” the extremists to hold up their end of the bargain – not to turn Afghanistan into a breeding ground for terrorism – but said ministers had to be “pragmatic” about the situation.
He told BBC Breakfast: “We’ve always had dialogue of some sort, either indirectly through third parties, or through the Taliban’s political commission in Doha.
“It is important to be able to engage at least in some shape or form to test and to exert as much influence as we credibly, realistically can, and also to try and hold the Taliban to account to the new commitments they made.”
The Minister has come under fire for sloping back from his European holiday only after the militants stormed the gates of Kabul.
Mr Raab insisted he remained in close contact with Foreign Office officials and dashed back as soon as the situation deterioated.
He said: “We didn’t predict that we would be doing this on this scale because of the Taliban takeover.
“But look, in retrospect of course I wouldn’t have gone on holiday if I had known that would be the case.”