Afghans trying to flee to Britain to escape the Taliban will have to make their own way to the borders if the Americans do not delay the date for leaving the country, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace (pictured inset) declares today.
In a powerfully emotive article for The Mail on Sunday, Mr Wallace warns that time is ‘ticking along, impossible to stop’ towards the imminent end of the UK’s mission to rescue thousands of Afghans entitled to come to the UK (pictured bottom right: A UK vacuation flight with 265 people on board).
While acknowledging that ‘no nation will be able to get everyone out’, Mr Wallace also announces that a series of ‘processing hubs’ will be set up in countries neighbouring Afghanistan for refugees who manage to escape.
If they can establish their right to come to the UK, they will be flown to Britain. The MoD (pictured top right: British soliders help Afghans in Kabul yesterday) is looking at establishing hubs in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey – but, startlingly, is also exploring whether the Taliban might allow the UK to retain a ‘presence’ in Kabul after the Americans have gone.
Mr Wallace makes a veiled plea for Washington to delay the US leaving date beyond August 31, writing: ‘Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer and they will have our complete support if they do.’
The 900 British troops cannot remain without the logistical support of the 6,000 US soldiers in Kabul (pictured top left: Taliban fighters stand guard) and will have to finish the evacuation before that point to allow enough time to secure their own safe exit.
Mr Wallace’s announcement coincided with scenes of carnage at Kabul airport (pictured left: Afghan refugees at Kabul airport) yesterday, with reports of at least four women crushed to death in a stampede.