The UK’s ability to process any more evacuations from Afghanistan is now “extremely reduced”, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has warned, as the focus turned to get diplomats and service personnel out of the country.
The MoD said on Friday night that 14,543 people had now been extracted from Kabul since August 13, a mix of Afghan and British nationals.
Some 8,000 of those were Afghans and their families under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme, which applies to those who helped the UK and are at risk of persecution by the Taliban.
But Operation Pitting – the name for the evacuation effort – is drawing to a close.
Already the Baron Hotel facility, which was being used to process those leaving the country by British officials, has closed.
The MoD said this would allow a focus on evacuating the British nationals and others who have already been processed and are at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
But the department said “the UK’s ability to process further cases is now extremely reduced and additional numbers will be limited”, and no-one else would now be called forward.
Evacuating all those already processed will now free up space on military aircraft to bring diplomats and military personnel home.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace earlier declined to give a timeline for the exit of British forces as they processed the approximately 1,000 further evacuees already in the airport but acknowledged it would come before the Americans withdrawal, with Mr Biden having set the departure deadline of Tuesday.
He said there were between 800 and 1,100 Afghans eligible under the Arap scheme who would be left behind, while around 100 and 150 UK nationals will be left in Afghanistan, although Mr Wallace said some of those were staying willingly.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of his “great sense of regret” at those left behind.
He said: “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.”