Aircraft from the UK and Germany reportedly flew out of Kabul with hardly any passengers on Tuesday and Wednesday, claims the UK for its part belatedly denied.
The Taliban takeover of the country over the past week sent throngs of people fleeing to the airport, seeking to escape the radical jihadists before they begin an expected purge of citizens who cooperated with the U.S. government during the 20-year Afghan War. Reports indicate that Taliban jihadists have blocked large numbers of people from accessing the airport, where Western nations have promised to send planes to evacuate their citizens and others deemed vulnerable.
UK opposition Labour Party leader Sir Keir Starmer cited NGO reports in parliament on Wednesday, claiming that at least one evacuation flight from Kabul had left the airport “almost empty”, saying that people were unable to get into the airport to be evacuated. Sir Keir criticised the government response to the ongoing crisis and called for Prime Minister Boris Johnson to “snap out of his complacency”, going on to demand the government present plans to secure the airport and allow for the evacuation of Afghans and others.
According to a report from the BBC, Number 10 Downing Street did not immediately counter the allegations made by the opposition leader but stated that the situation on the ground in Kabul was a difficult one. Some 22 hours later, Britain’s defence secretary spoke to the BBC and denied Starmer’s claims, insisting no British aircraft had left Kabul empty.
Defence Minister Ben Wallace, a veteran guards officer, said: “None of our planes are leaving empty. I can’t vouch for other nations, but our planes never leave empty. If we have spaces on them, we offer them up for other nations. We took out some NATO interpreters recently, we’ve taken out some people from other [European states].”
Mr Wallace also said that the United Kingdom was sending another company of soldiers to Afghanistan today “to help with public order”. Appearing to clash with the Biden administration, which has been pursuing an apparent policy of pulling out of Afghanistan at maximum speed and in spite of any consequence, Defence Secretary Wallace noted of the UK sending more troops back to Kabul: “If at the end of the day we’re allowed to stay longer, we can stay longer, that’s a real benefit to us all.”
As of Wednesday, a total of 306 UK nationals and 2,052 Afghan nationals had been evacuated from Kabul since the city fell to the Taliban on Sunday. Wallace said up to ten UK planes were leaving Kabul today, and hundreds more people had been evacuated on Thursday morning.
Conservative Govt Invites 20,000 Afghans to UK in Coming Years https://t.co/k09A65bQfy
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Germany has not had such luck, however. In similar reports on Tuesday, a German military aircraft evacuated just seven people. The A-400M transport can carry up to 200 people at a time.
The German government claimed that the aircraft was forced to take off nearly empty due to the security situation at the airport.
“We can confirm that seven people were evacuated during the night on a flight from Kabul. Due to the chaotic circumstances at the airport and regular exchanges of fire at the access point, there was no guarantee last night that further German nationals and other persons to be evacuated would even have access to the airport without the protection of the Bundeswehr [German armed forces],” the German Foreign Office said in a statement.
Here it comes… https://t.co/526ZNkmkpp
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“With the support of the Bundeswehr forces that have now arrived in Kabul, we are working under high pressure to make this possible for the first evacuation groups in the course of the next few hours,” the statement added.
The near-empty German aircraft was contrasted with an American military flight which alone took 640 people from the country on Sunday, well above the rated capacity of the aircraft. So far, Germany has evacuated just 2,000 staff, and around 10,000 are reportedly still looking to leave.
Other American flights have been less well loaded than that highly publicised example, however. Other C-17 aircraft took only around 110 people each on 18 flights that evacuated 2,000 people from the country.
According to the Daily Mail, the Biden White House previously promised to evacuate 9,000 people from Kabul per day for a total of 20,000 overall. At least 50,000 people have amassed at the civilian and military sides of the airport that has become surrounded by Taliban forces, the newspaper asserted. Multiple reports indicate that the Taliban are not allowing anyone into the airport who cannot present a foreign passport.
Shocking footage from the airport surfaced this week, showing desperate Afghans clinging to American aircraft to escape the country, resulting in several falling to their deaths. At least seven people died on Monday during the chaos, according to U.S. officials.
“I feel like we abandoned our allies over there, and it’s disgusting.” https://t.co/dYv2TQyhqB
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