Taliban promises it will give ‘safe passage’ to people trying to leave the country after Tuesday deadline

The UK Government has received assurances from the Taliban that anybody wishing to leave Afghanistan after August 31 will be allowed to do so.

British troops have already left Kabul and US military personnel will be out of Afghanistan before the August 31 deadline set by US President Joe Biden. But there are concerns for thousands of Afghans who may have been eligible for resettlement schemes, but could not make it to Kabul airport for evacuation or were not processed in time.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said that if the Taliban regime wanted diplomatic recognition and aid funding, they would have to ensure “safe passage” for those who want to leave.

In a joint statement with the US and more than 90 other countries, it was confirmed that the Taliban had said anyone who wished to leave the country could do so.

The joint statement said: “We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorisation from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.”

It comes after 15,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan by UK troops over the course of nearly two weeks in Operation Pitting, which is believed to be the largest evacuation mission since the Second World War.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said yesterday that 1,000 eligible Afghans and 150 Britons had been left behind.  

Speaking on the runway at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, he said: “We’ve had to leave Afghanistan for now and the embassy will operate from Qatar for the time being.

“We will continue to stand by the people of Afghanistan, working on humanitarian, diplomatic and security work, and above all bringing to the UK Afghans and British nationals who still need our support, and we will be putting pressure on the Taliban to allow safe passage for those people.

“We will reopen the embassy as soon as we can. We will do everything we can to protect the gains of the last 20 years and above all to help the Afghan people achieve the security and the peace that they deserve.”

Vice Admiral Ben Key, Chief of Joint Operations, who commanded Operation Pitting, admitted there was a “sense of sadness” that not all could be saved.

He said: “Whilst we recognise and I pay testament to the achievement of everything that has been achieved by coalition forces, but particularly the British contingent, over the last two weeks, in the end we know that there are some really sad stories of people who have desperately tried to leave that we have, no matter how hard our efforts, we have been unsuccessful in evacuating.”

He added: “There has been a phenomenal effort achieved in the last two weeks. And I think we always knew that somewhere we would fall just short.”

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