Britain will not abandon Afghanistan, says Johnson as 600 troops set to evacuate trapped nationals Taliban fighters stand over a damaged police vehicle along the roadside in Kandahar on August 13, 2021. (Photo by – / AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)
BRITAIN will not abandon Afghanistan, prime minister Boris Johnson vowed on Friday (13), even as he confirmed the imminent withdrawal of most embassy staff in the face of a rapid Taliban onslaught.
With the Islamists seizing control of more Afghan cities, Britain is reportedly deploying around 600 troops to help evacuate its roughly 3,000 nationals from the country, and Johnson said the “vast bulk” of remaining embassy staff in Kabul will also return to the UK.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace said US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw US troops, forcing NATO allies to follow suit, “leaves a very big problem on the ground” and handed the momentum to the Taliban, predicting that it might benefit Al-Qaeda.
Johnson, however, said after reportedly convening crisis talks with senior cabinet colleagues, that the West retained a strategic interest in backing the beleaguered Kabul government.
“I think we have got to be realistic about the power of the UK or any power to impose a military solution — a combat solution — in Afghanistan,” he told reporters.
“What we certainly can do is work with all our partners in the region, around the world, who share an interest with us in preventing Afghanistan once again becoming a breeding ground for terror.
“What we must do now is not turn our backs on Afghanistan,” he stressed, adding that Britain could be “extremely proud” of its role in the country, especially in advancing girls’ education — gains that are now imperilled by the Taliban advance.
Johnson added that UK interior ministry officials were flying out to Kabul to help Afghan interpreters who served with the UK military to apply for resettlement in Britain.
Many of the translators have complained of British foot-dragging, and say they now fear for their lives given the risk of Taliban reprisals, reports said.
Speaking earlier on Sky News, Wallace on Friday (13) morning said Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump had secured a “rotten deal” with the Taliban permitting the US to wind down its longest war, echoing UK military chiefs who have savaged the pullout.