British armed forces “can’t afford to pause” as they evacuate British nationals and local allies out of Afghanistan via Kabul, the UK’s military figure leading the operation has said.
Royal Navy Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key also said it is up to individuals called forward to make their own way to the airport, where he said the Taliban are in control of the access points but seem “acquiescent” about what the UK is trying to achieve there.
The UK is working to help get about 6,000 people out of Afghanistan via Kabul.
Sir Ben told Sky News: “The demand placed upon us is in the order of 6,000, both Arap (Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy) and entitled personnel.
“Those numbers are changing all the time as we understand the scale of the ask, people are coming forward making themselves known through the FCDO consular services or into us under the Arap programme.
“How long have we got to do it? We don’t really know, so every day we are working as hard as we can to bring as many forward into this pipeline as we possibly can.
“Clearly there is a dynamic political situation running across the city.
“We make no assumptions about that other than we really can’t afford to pause and wait.”
Meanwhile, the Taliban is controlling access to the airport from the surrounding area on the ground, he said, and for individuals attempting to leave the currently via the airport, which is under the control of UK and US armed forces, “much of that journey is for them to undertake”.
“It is quite obvious that the Taliban now are the prevalent security providers across Afghanistan, that’s a fact, so therefore it is much up to them and these individuals, as we call them forward, to make their own way to the vicinity of the airport.
“We then bring them into the airport and process them,” he said.
Sir Ben told BBC Radio 4’s World At One programme the Taliban seemed “acquiescent” about allowing people to access the airport, saying: “It is a statement of fact that they are now controlling all of the access points around the airport, so at a tactical level, around the gates, we are having to have a pragmatic engagement with the local Taliban commanders.
“And thus far, and recognise, please, that we are only a day and a half into this kind of new situation, they have seemed acquiescent and understanding of what we are trying to achieve.
“We don’t take it for granted, and the local commanders continue to engage with them at the gate accesses to achieve what we want to achieve.”