The British government said today it received assurances from the Taliban that anyone wishing to leave Afghanistan after August 31 may do so.
British troops have already left Kabul and US military personnel will leave Afghanistan before the August 31 deadline set by US President Joe Biden.
But there are fears for the potentially thousands of Afghans who may have been eligible for resettlement schemes, who were unable to reach Kabul airport for evacuation or who were not treated in time.
Taliban stand guard outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul . today
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday that if the Taliban regime wants diplomatic recognition and aid funding, it must provide “safe passage” for those who want to leave.
And a joint statement with the US and more than 90 other countries confirmed that the Taliban had said anyone who wanted to leave the country could do so.
The joint statement said: “We have been assured by the Taliban that all foreign nationals and all Afghan citizens with travel authorization from our countries may travel to the departure points and outside the country in a safe and orderly manner.”
It comes after 15,000 people were evacuated from Afghanistan by British forces over the course of nearly two weeks in Operation Pitting, which is believed to be the largest evacuation mission since World War II.
British Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Laurie Bristow, who had stayed in the country and moved the embassy to Kabul airport to process as many evacuees as possible, returned to the UK on Sunday.
He vowed to continue helping British subjects and Afghans who remain in the country and still need help.
Crowds wait outside the airport in Kabul for a photo taken on August 25
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said yesterday that 1,000 eligible Afghans and 150 Britons have been left behind.
On the runway at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, he said: “We have had to leave Afghanistan for the time being and the embassy will operate from Qatar for the time being.
“We will continue to assist the people of Afghanistan, work on humanitarian, diplomatic and security work, especially bringing Afghans and British nationals who still need our support to the UK, and we will put pressure on the Taliban to ensure safe passage for those people.
“We will reopen the embassy as soon as possible. We will do everything we can to protect the achievements of the past 20 years and, above all, to help the Afghan people achieve the security and peace they deserve.”
Vice Admiral Ben Key, head of joint operations in command of Operation Pitting, admitted there was a “sense of sadness” that not everyone could be saved.
He said: “While we recognize and testify to the achievement of all that the Coalition forces, but especially the British contingent, over the past two weeks we do 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 failed to evacuate.”
He added: “There’s been a phenomenal effort in the last two weeks. And I think we always knew we were going to come up short somewhere.”
After official advice was changed earlier this week to advise people to stay away from Kabul airport due to the threat of a terrorist attack, ministers said anyone who could reach a third country could be flown to the UK from there .
But there were concerns that the Taliban would not allow it, amid reports of roadblocks.
Among those detained in Afghanistan was the wife of a British shopkeeper who was killed in the terror attack at Kabul airport on Thursday.
Zohra Popal, 23, burst into tears as she described the pain of losing her father, Musa Popal, and pleaded with the government to bring her mother home.
She said the family feels “ignored” by the State Department, Commonwealth and Development, which has not been in touch since news of his death was confirmed.
British soldiers board a Royal Air Force (RAF) A400M plane before departure from Kabul Airport yesterday
Popal, 60, was one of three British citizens, including a child, who were killed in the suicide bombing.
Mohamed Niazi, 29, an Uber driver from Aldershot, Hampshire, was also among the victims.
Ms Popal said she fears for the life of her mother Saleema, 60, and members of her family who she believes may be targeted by the Taliban.
In a video uploaded to Twitter on Sunday, Johnson praised the more than 1,000 military personnel, diplomats and officials who took part in the operation in Afghanistan.
He said: “British troops and officials have been working around the clock to meet a brutal deadline in dire circumstances.
“They have put all the patience and care they have in helping people who fear for their lives.
“They have seen firsthand barbaric terrorist attacks on the ranks of people they tried to comfort, as well as on our American friends.
“They didn’t back down. They stayed calm. They went on with the work.
“Thanks to their tremendous efforts, this country has now processed, checked, vetted and secured more than 15,000 people in less than two weeks.”
Meanwhile, officials said a US airstrike targeted a vehicle carrying “multiple suicide bombers” of the so-called Islamic State affiliate, Isis-K, in Afghanistan before they could target the US military evacuation at Kabul airport, officials said.