British deaths in Kabul attack underline urgency of evacuation effort – PM

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Boris Johnson has said he will “shift heaven and earth” to get people out of Afghanistan after August 31 as he confirmed British deaths in the “contemptible” attack at Kabul airport.

Speaking to broadcasters after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab confirmed the deaths, the Prime Minister said he felt “a great sense of regret” about those left behind in Afghanistan, as the evacuation process enters its final stages.

Asked about the deaths of two British adults, and a teenager who was a child of a British national, he said: “I think what their loss really underlines is the urgency of getting on and concluding Operation Pitting in the way that we are, and also underlines the bravery of our armed services, our troops, everybody else involved.”

The PM admitted: “Of course, as we come down to the final hours of the operation there will sadly be people who haven’t got through, people who might qualify.

“What I would say to them is that we will shift heaven and earth to help them get out, we will do whatever we can in the second phase.”

When asked whether the scenes seen in Afghanistan amounted to a national humiliation, he said the circumstances were “extremely difficult and extremely horrible”.

“It’s certainly not something that… the timing of this is certainly not the one that this country would have chosen, and I think that everybody understands that,” the PM said.

And Mr Johnson repeated his warning to the Taliban that if any new government in Afghanistan wanted to have engagement with the West, they must allow people who wish to leave the country to do so.

He said: “There will be people who are eligible, whether they’re UK nationals who have chosen not to come forward yet, or people who were interpreters and others who haven’t been able to get to come forward to Hamid Karzai International Airport so far.

“And what I say to them, is that we will shift heaven and earth to get you out, and we will use all the leverage that we have with the Taliban to make sure that they understand it.”

Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan
Prime Minister Boris Johnson observes the operations room for the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy during a visit to Northwood Headquarters, the British Armed Forces Permanent Joint Headquarters, in Eastbury, north-west London, where he met with personnel working on the UK operation in Afghanistan (Adrian Dennis/PA)

Mr Johnson said the UK would “continue to talk to the Taliban”.

And he said: “I think that what it certainly shows, what the terrorist attack certainly shows, is that the government of Afghanistan is going to be extremely difficult for whoever is running it, and that’s been the case for a very long time.”

And he added that the Taliban “are certainly no friends of Daesh, the Islamic State Khorasan Province, who claim responsibility” for the attack.

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