The British military has ended its evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan, bringing a close to an operation that airlifted almost 15,000 Afghan and British citizens in the two weeks since the Taliban took control.
The last British flight evacuating civilians from Afghanistan left Kabul airport on August 28. The British armed forces are now preparing to leave and will take a small numbers of Afghan citizens with them on remaining flights this weekend, a Defense Ministry spokesperson said.
Defense Minister Ben Wallace said on August 27 that he estimated between 800 and 1,100 Afghans who had worked with Britain and were eligible to leave the country would not make it through.
General Nick Carter, head of Britain's armed forces, told the BBC that the total would be in the "high hundreds."
"We haven't been able to bring everyone out, and that has been heartbreaking. And there have been some very challenging judgments that have had to be made on the ground,” Carter said.
Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, addressed those left behind in a video on Twitter about the airlift operation ending.
“We haven’t forgotten the people who still need to leave,” Bristow said from Kabul airport. “We’ll continue to do everything we can to help them. Nor have we forgotten the brave, decent people of Afghanistan. They deserve to live in peace and security.”
U.S. and allied forces have been racing to complete evacuations of their citizens and vulnerable Afghans and to withdraw from Afghanistan by an August 31 deadline to withdraw all foreign forces from the country.
Carter, speaking to Sky News, said Britain and its allies might cooperate with the Taliban in the future to tackle threats from the Islamic State militant group.
"If the Taliban are able to demonstrate that they can behave in the way that a normal government would behave in relation to a terrorist threat, we may well discover that we operate together," Carter said.
But Britain would have to “wait and see,” he said, noting that some reports about how the Taliban are treating its enemies would make it “quite difficult for us to work with them at the moment."
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson discussed the Afghan situation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on August 28. The two leaders agreed that the Group of Seven rich nations should take a common approach to dealing with any future Taliban government.
"The prime minister stressed that any recognition and engagement with the Taliban must be conditional on them allowing safe passage for those who want to leave the country and respecting human rights," Johnson's office said.