Afghanistan evacuations: ‘Hours not weeks’ for final UK flights

The UK has “hours now, not weeks” to evacuate people from Afghanistan, the defence secretary has said.

Ben Wallace said troops would leave Kabul’s airport when the US withdraws, which is due to happen on 31 August.

At an emergency meeting of G7 world leaders on Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ask US President Joe Biden for an extension of that deadline in order to allow more flights.

But a spokesman for the Taliban said it would not support a deadline extension.

Suhail Shaheen said an extension would mean extending Afghanistan’s occupation, and warned of consequences if that were to change.

Thousands of people are said to be waiting to board flights at Kabul’s international airport, just over a week after the Taliban seized the capital.

The Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan has shocked its people and the world. It happened after foreign forces announced their withdrawal following a deal between

the US and the Taliban, two decades after American-led forces removed the militants from power in 2001

Mr Wallace said he had spoken to his US counterpart and that the American withdrawal “will take away the framework” for the evacuation operations.

“I don’t think there is any likelihood of staying on after the United States,” he said.

“We are really down to hours now, not weeks. We have to make sure we exploit every minute to get people out.”

His comments come after the armed forces minister said it was “not realistic” to replace US forces in time.

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