The Taliban’s takeover has triggered global fears of a rise in terrorism and the rebirth of al-Qaeda as well as leaving Afghans facing a terrifying future of oppression and brutality
Image: UK MOD Crown copyright)
Helicopters buzzed over Kabul evacuating British and US citizens as the Taliban entered the capital, completing their terrifying takeover of Afghanistan.
As British and US troops made a desperate last stand at Kabul airport, where thousands were waiting to flee, our PM Boris Johnson was larking around with Olympians in London and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was cutting short a holiday abroad.
The Taliban’s takeover has triggered global fears of a rise in terrorism and the rebirth of al-Qaeda as well as leaving Afghans facing a terrifying future of oppression and brutality.
As the 20-year war came to its humiliating end, British ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow was among about 6,000 Brits, including embassy staff, aid workers and NGO employees, being evacuated.
UK MOD Crown copyright)
All commercial flights out of Kabul airport were suspended last night as military aircraft carried out the evacuation in an operation compared to the Fall of Saigon in Vietnam in 1975.
As America’s CH47 Chinook helicopters lifted staff from embassy gardens and roofs, US Apache helicopters buzzed the airport perimeter to warn off Taliban forces.
There were reports last night that the airport was under fire from rockets or mortars.
One British private security worker who got out told the Mirror: “It was a nightmare extraction as we dodged traffic for the last dash to the airport. There was apparently shooting at checkpoints.
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“Kabul was rammed with traffic and refugees as the Taliban entered the city and we were ordered to evacuate. It happened so quickly.
“I hope that everyone got out – driving to the airport was horrific and some of us didn’t think we would make it out in time.”
Many US and UK evacuees were taken to Doha, in Qatar, ironically as Taliban “officials”, such as the leader of their negotiating team Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, left that city to go to Kabul.
One Taliban official said the transition of power would be peaceful, with women’s rights respected.
But a British private security source in Kabul said: “How long that lasts is anyone’s guess. They’ve been killing officials in every city. The Taliban leadership may not have as much a grip on local commanders as they had hoped from the relative peace of Qatar.”
Tom Tugendhat, a former Army officer and now chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee, branded the crisis “the biggest single foreign policy disaster” since Suez.
And he said: “The real danger is that we are going to see every female MP murdered, we are going to see ministers strung up on street lamps.” Looting was reported as gunfire sounded through Kabul.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghabi Ahmadzai fled the country amid claims of a deal with the US and Taliban as embassies performed “burn it up” emergency procedures.
Fleeing British officials ordered staff to “destroy” Union flags to stop the Taliban parading them in the streets.
Smoke rose above embassies as staff burned documents, destroyed computers and private security companies set cars alight and destroyed weapons to keep them out of Taliban hands. Locals begged fleeing Western security guards to leave their weapons. In a final humiliation, sources said US troops planned to “blow up and deny” the Apache helicopters once staff had been airlifted out.
After a Cobra meeting to discuss the crisis yesterday, Boris Johnson, who has recalled Parliament for a debate on Wednesday, said his priority was to evacuate UK nationals and locals who had helped the UK effort. Almost 2,000 Afghans, including translators, have been resettled in the UK, but many more have been left behind.
Mr Johnson said: “We’re going to get as many as we can out in the next few days.”
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds called on Priti Patel to expand the resettlement scheme for Afghans who had “worked so bravely” with the British. He demanded “specific safe and legal asylum routes” be put in place.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “The situation in Afghanistan is deeply shocking. The Government has been silent while Afghanistan collapses.”
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab flew back from his summer holiday last night and faced questions over why he chose to travel abroad as British foreign policy unravelled.
Mr Raab said the world must “tell the Taliban that the violence must end and human rights must be protected”. Former Labour Defence Secretary George Robertson said: “It is stunning that the Foreign Secretary would stay on holiday as our mission in Afghanistan disintegrated.”
Calling for the Navy’s carrier strike group to be sent to the region, Defence Committee chairman Tobias Ellwood said: “We can turn this around.”
In Kabul, campaigner Omaid Sharifi said: “We have been taken back hundreds and hundreds of years. The world has turned its back on us.”