Afghanistan: Thousands try to flee at Kabul airport as Taliban take control of country

Chaotic scenes have unfolded at Kabul airport as thousands of people attempt to flee Afghanistan. 

US troops have control of Kabul’s international airport, as desperate residents try to flee the city following the Taliban’s return to Kabul.

Foreign national staff are being evacuated with US military taking over air traffic control. The UK military are working with US forces to secure Kabul airport to ensure flights can continue as Afghans and foreigners alike scramble to leave.

Boris Johnson has vowed to get as many as possible of the Afghans who worked with the UK out of the country as the Taliban stood poised to take control of the capital Kabul.

Following a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergencies committee, the Prime Minister said his priority was to get UK nationals and Afghans who had worked with them out of the country “as fast as we can”.

“We are going to get as many as we can out in the next few days,” he said.

Around 4,000 British nationals and eligible Afghans are thought to be in the city and in need of evacuation.

According to reports, a day after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan’s capital and declared victory, the streets of Kabul lie empty and deserted.

READ MORE: Boris Johnson urged to make last-ditch intervention to save Afghanistan

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has acknowledged that the Taliban “are in control” of Afghanistan, saying there is a sense of sadness in the recent events.

Triumphal fighters were pictured in the presidential palace abandoned by President Ashraf Ghani who fled the country while his forces gave up the city without a fight.

Wallace told Sky News: “I think we all saw that and felt a real sense of sadness that first of all the forces that the British and the international community had invested in had melted away in some areas so quickly.”

“You don’t fix things overnight in global issues, you have to manage them… when that deal was done a few years ago, what happened was ultimately we undermined the community – the deal undermined the Afghan government and left it in a place that ultimately saw the end… the river flows fastest towards the end and that is what we saw yesterday and it’s what we’re seeing in our pictures today.”

He added: “My job as as defence secretary is to make sure that we protect not only the UK nationals, but those Afghans we have an obligation to, that is actually why we’re in the country. For the last few weeks we’ve been in the country solely to process those people and to make sure we protect our officials doing that job and we’ll continue to do so.”

READ MORE: Boris Johnson calls Cobra meeting over Afghanistan crisis

Asked if he acknowledged the Taliban had won the war, he said: “I don’t know about a win, I think, I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country. You don’t have to be a political scientist to spot that’s where we’re at.”

Asked if Nato was going to return and take over Kabul, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News: “No, look that’s not on the cards that we’re going to go back.”

He added: “The US have made itself clear that they’re not intending to stay and as the framework nation that leaves us with difficult choices and I’ve been pretty much honest about that all the way through this process.”

On the airlift of British nationals, he added: “The military flights are coming in and out, they’ve just brought in more UK soldiers.

“Border Force is joining us to make sure that we accelerate the process to get more Afghans out, which is our obligation. We flew out 370 staff and British citizens, eligible personnel yesterday and the day before and we’ll continue to engage those flights.

“The next group of Afghans to come out will be 782 and we’ll make sure we get them in the next 24 to 36 hours out of the country and are continuing to process those people.”

The speed of the Taliban advance suggests that there may only be a short window of a few days to get people out.

The Herald Scotland

The Herald Scotland

The Herald is a Scottish broadsheet newspaper founded in 1783. The Herald is the longest running national newspaper in the world and is the eighth oldest daily paper in the world. The title was simplified from The Glasgow Herald in 1992