POLITICS
27/08/2021 08:21 BST

UK's Afghanistan Evacuation Mission Has Just 'Hours' Left, Says Defence Secretary

Ben Wallace says Kabul airport terror attack “didn’t hasten our departure”.

GIUSEPPE CACACE via Getty Images

The UK evacuation mission in Afghanistan is into its final “hours”, the defence secretary has said.

But Ben Wallace said on Friday morning the terror attack at Kabul airport “didn’t hasten our departure”.

Despite airlifting nearly 14,000 people out of Afghanistan in the past two weeks, the defence secretary also admitted “not every single one will get out”.

Speaking to Sky News, Wallace said the Baron Hotel processing centre, near where the bombings took place, was shut at 4.30am, as was the Abbey Gate to Kabul airport.

“We will process the people that we’ve 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,” he told Sky News.

“But overall the main processing is now closed and we have a matter of hours.”

Wallace insisted the Kabul airport terror attack “didn’t hasten our departure” and the main UK evacuee processing site was closed “almost exactly on schedule”.

“The threat is obviously going to grow the closer we get to leaving,” he told Sky News.

“The narrative is always going to be certain groups, such as IS, will want to stake a claim that they have driven out the US or the UK.”

Thursday’s bombings near Kabul’s airport killed at least 60 Afghans and 13 US troops in the deadliest day for US forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.

In an emotional speech in Washington DC, US president Joe Biden blamed the incident on the affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan (Isis-K), a far more radical force than the Taliban militants who seized power less than two weeks ago.