Remaining British troops leave Kabul on final UK military flight
Two decades of engagement in Afghanistan by British troops has come to an end as the final members of UK military and diplomatic personnel left Kabul airport on Saturday night, ending the largest evacuation mission since the second world war.
Operation Pitting – where more than 1,000 troops, diplomats, and officials were dispatched to Afghanistan to rescue UK nationals and Afghan allies after the seizure of the country’s capital by the Taliban – airlifted more than 15,000 people to safety across just over a fortnight.
British prime minister Boris Johnson said now was “a moment to reflect on everything we have sacrificed and everything we have achieved in the last two decades”.
at 12.59am BST
Terror attack ‘highly likely in next 24-36 hours’, says Biden
On Saturday afternoon in Washington, US President Joe Biden vowed to keep up airstrikes against the Islamic extremist group whose suicide bombing at the Kabul airport killed scores of Afghans and 13 American service members. Another terror attack, he said, is “highly likely” this weekend as the US winds down its evacuation.
AP: The Pentagon said the remaining contingent of US forces at the airport, now numbering fewer than 4,000, had begun their final withdrawal ahead of Biden’s deadline for ending the evacuation on Tuesday.
After getting briefed on a US drone mission in eastern Afghanistan that the Pentagon said killed two members of the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate early Saturday, Biden said the extremists can expect more.
“This strike was not the last,” Biden said in a statement. “We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay.”
The evacuation proceeded as tensions rose over the prospect of another IS attack.
“Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” Biden said, adding that he has instructed them to take all possible measures to protect their troops, who are securing the airport and helping bring onto the airfield Americans and others desperate to escape Taliban rule.
The remains of the 13 American troops killed in the attack were on their way to the United States, the Pentagon said.
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Hi, I’m Helen Sullivan and I’ll be bringing you the latest developments from Afghanistan as they happen.
As always, if you see news you think we should know, you can get in touch on Twitter @helenrsullivan.
Here is a recap of the key news from the last while:
- Two decades of engagement in Afghanistan by British troops has come to an end as the final members of UK military and diplomatic personnel left Kabul airport on Saturday night, brining a close to the largest evacuation mission since the second world war. Operation Pitting – where more than 1,000 troops, diplomats, and officials were dispatched to Afghanistan to rescue UK nationals and Afghan allies after the seizure of the country’s capital by the Taliban – airlifted more than 15,000 people to safety across just over a fortnight.
- Joe Biden warned on Saturday that another terrorist attack in Kabul was highly likely in the next 24 to 36 hours, and said the US drone strike which killed two Islamic State targets in retaliation for the deaths of 13 US service members and as many as 170 civilians on Thursday would not be the last such action.
- Musa Papal has been named by his family as a British victim of the Kabul airport suicide bombing. Papal, 60, left his home in North London in May to visit family in Kandahar and was killed in the airport blast. Another Briton killed in the Kabul attack was Mohammad Niazi, a 29-year-old taxi driver who died along with his wife and two of their children after he went to Afghanistan to rescue them, Sky News reports.
- The Pentagon said the US has helped a total of 117,000 people evacuate from Afghanistan, including 6,800 in the past 24 hours.
- France and Britain will submit a resolution to an emergency United Nations meeting due Monday on Afghanistan proposing a safe zone in Kabul to protect people trying to leave the country, French president Emmanuel Macron said.
- The families of Afghan interpreters who have fled the Taliban to the UK will be offered free English courses as part of a comprehensive package to help them settle in their new home.
- Thousands of emails to the Foreign Office from MPs and charities detailing urgent cases of Afghans trying to escape from Kabul have not been read, including cases flagged by government ministers, the Observer has been told.
- The US Embassy in Kabul warned earlier that US citizens at the airport gates “should leave immediately”. The embassy also warned, citing security threats, that citizens should avoid traveling to the airport because of security threats.
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