UK tells stranded Afghans 'head to border not airport' due to ISIS-K

UK tells stranded Afghans 'head to border not airport' due to ISIS-K

08/25/2021

UK tells stranded Afghans: Head to the BORDER not the airport due to ‘high threat’ of terror attack from ISIS-K

  • Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs there were few places left on UK planes
  • It comes as US officials reiterated ‘very real risk’ of a terror attack from ISIS-K
  • Around 2,000 Afghan interpreters still need evacuating from Afghanistan

Some of those trying to flee the Taliban may be better off heading for the border rather than hoping for a flight out, the Defence Secretary admitted last night.

As evacuation efforts entered their final hours, Ben Wallace appeared to signal in a briefing to MPs that there are few places left on British planes. 

There is also an increased terror risk from jihadist group ISIS-K, with US officials last night saying there was a ‘very real risk’ of an attack.

Questioned about what Afghans who have been offered student places or fellowships in the UK should do, he said: ‘If they think they can make it to a third country, that may be a better option.’

Pressed by a Tory backbencher, Mr Wallace added: ‘I recommend that they try and make it to the border … because it is higher profile going to the airport – that is where the Taliban will be focusing their efforts at the moment.’

There was no suggestion however, that Afghans who have been told by western officials to travel to the airport for evacuation should alter that plan.

Some of those trying to flee the Taliban may be better off heading for the border rather than hoping for a flight out, the Defence Secretary admitted last night. 

Hundreds of people gather near an evacuation control checkpoint during ongoing evacuations at Hamid Karzai International Airport, in Kabul 

Pressed by a Tory backbencher, Mr Wallace added: ‘I recommend that they try and make it to the border … because it is higher profile going to the airport – that is where the Taliban will be focusing their efforts at the moment.’ 

The frantic race to rescue the last 2,000 Afghan allies was underway last night as the Daily Mail learned all UK troops must leave Afghanistan by the weekend. 

Around 150 flights left Kabul airport yesterday as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the UK will use ‘every hour left’ to rescue vulnerable Afghans.

But the grim reality is that many hundreds – including heroic Afghan interpreters – will be left to the clutches of the Taliban after Tuesday’s deadline for international troops to leave. 

A US order that Britain must pull out its 1,000 soldiers and officials before the US begins its withdrawal has reduced the time available to process the final claims.

US commanders have also insisted on ‘two to three days’ to conduct a unilateral extraction of their 6,000-strong force, meaning the last UK troops are expected to fly out on Sunday.

The order came as the Taliban further tightened its grip on the airport, using checkpoints to block anyone not holding the necessary paperwork and demanding bribes from those who did.

Afghans and foreign citizens suffered beatings. Video footage showed an Australian with blood streaming down his face from a head wound after he was confronted by Taliban guards.

There were estimated to be 10,000 Afghans crammed outside the gates to the airport.

UK commander Brigadier Dan Blanchford said they faced ‘harrowing and extreme conditions’. 

Around 150 flights left Kabul airport yesterday as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab insisted the UK will use ‘every hour left’ to rescue vulnerable Afghans. In this image provided by the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Air Force loadmasters and pilots assigned to the 816th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron, load people being evacuated from Afghanistan onto a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster

There were estimated to be 10,000 Afghans crammed outside the gates to the airport. UK commander Brigadier Dan Blanchford said they faced ‘harrowing and extreme conditions’. Pictured: Afghans line up outside a bank to take out cash as people keep waiting at Hamid Karzai International Airport

Raab denies he was ‘lounging around’ on holiday while Kabul fell 

Dominic Raab today denied he was ‘lounging around on the beach’ while Kabul fell as he defended his delayed return to the UK from a luxury break at a five-star resort in Crete.  

The Foreign Secretary arrived home on the evening of Sunday August 15 after he opted to work remotely as the situation in Afghanistan deteriorated. 

Mr Raab said he was ‘engaged from a hotel room, my family was on the beach, not me’ and that he ‘checked in on them episodically’. 

The Tory frontbencher said ‘the stuff about me being lounging around on the beach all day is just nonsense’ as he insisted the ‘sea was actually closed, it was a red notice’.      

Mr Raab remains under pressure to quit over his handling of the crisis and this morning he admitted that ‘with the benefit of hindsight I wouldn’t have gone away’.  

Since the start of the operation, the RAF has flown out 11,474 people, including almost 7,000 vulnerable Afghans. 

It has evacuated more than 2,500 UK nationals, 341 British Embassy officials and around 1,000 nationals from 38 nations.

The figure of 2,000 awaiting rescue could rise, with the last freedom flight possibly tomorrow.

There are ‘special cases’ still to be processed – Afghans to be offered sanctuary in the UK due to the likelihood they will be targeted by the Taliban.

British troops face an increased threat of a terrorist attack from jihadis.

At the airport, a young Afghan woman told the BBC that Taliban forces were treating the crowds of waiting civilians ‘like animals’. 

Before she boarded a flight, she said: ‘Today after three days, I finally got into the airport and I have my flight. It took us 18 hours to get through one of the gates .

‘The airport is completely surrounded by Taliban forces and they’re being as brutal as they can to the people. They’re shooting at people, they’re beating people.

‘I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I’m travelling to a safer country – anything right now is better than being in a country led by the Taliban. 

‘On the other, I’m leaving behind everything – my life, my work, my dreams, my hopes. I really desperately want to one day come back to Kabul and see Kabul free of the Taliban.’ 

Amid the horror, there was also humanity. A British officer described looking after a baby girl after she child became separated from her mother in the crush.

Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Caesar of 16 Medical Regiment, said: ‘We took her for a walk around our hospital, managed to burp her a few times. She seemed to settle.

At the airport, a young Afghan woman told the BBC that Taliban forces were treating the crowds of waiting civilians ‘like animals’. Before she boarded a flight, she said: ‘Today after three days, I finally got into the airport and I have my flight. It took us 18 hours to get through one of the gates.’ Pictured: A C-17 Globemaster lll lands on the runway as evacuees from Afghanistan debark a C-17 Globemaster

Two paratroopers assigned to the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division conduct security while a C-130 Hercules takes off during a evacuation operation in Kabul

‘One of the challenges in this sort of environment is never really knowing who is going to come through the door. We have to be prepared for every eventuality.

‘Fortunately as a recent father myself I have a bit of experience in dealing with small children. She was later reunited with her mother before being evacuated.’ 

A heart-breaking announcement for those who remain is expected ‘imminently’, according to political sources. The crowds are expected to be told, perhaps today, that evacuations for civilians are no longer possible.

Tobias Ellwood, chairman of the Commons defence committee, said: ‘We are down to the last hours. It is vital we communicate with those waiting outside the airport to prevent panic and loss of life, confirming what has happened.

They will have to be told, sadly, that no more evacuation flights are possible ahead of the August 31 deadline and that, as from then, only military withdrawal flights will be taking off.’

The final betrayal: The Afghan translators who helped Britain but can’t make it inside Kabul airport – and fear they are being left to die at the hands of Taliban by Joe Biden

    By David Williams and Mark Nichol for the Daily Mail

    Desperate translators last night told the Mail they feared they were being left to die in Kabul, unable to escape Afghanistan as the evacuation drive headed into its final hours.

    The Afghan interpreters – who loyally served Britain on the front line defying threats to their safety – are terrified they are now stranded at the mercy of the Taliban.

    Some are unable to reach Kabul airport as the Taliban turned increasingly violent at its checkpoints.

    Others, already queuing, could not get through the airport with crowds of up to 10,000 converging ahead of America’s deadline to withdraw by August 31. 

    Desperate translators last night told the Mail they feared they were being left to die in Kabul, unable to escape Afghanistan as the evacuation drive headed into its final hours. Pictured: Imam Wabab with UK military during a meeting with Afghan village elders

    Others, already queuing, could not get through the airport with crowds of up to 10,000 converging ahead of America’s deadline to withdraw by August 31. Pictured: British and American security forces maintain order amongst the Afghan evacuees waiting to leave, in Kabul

    Britain said yesterday it still had 2,000 Afghan translators, related workers and their families to get out – and the likelihood is that there are only 36 hours left before its paratroopers have to begin packing up. Pictured: Chaotic crowds on the approach to Kabul airport

    We must not leave ‘Our Imam’ behind 

    A religious leader seen as a top Taliban target because of his key role with British forces has spent two terrifying days with his family outside Kabul’s airport waiting to be called for a mercy flight.

    Imam Wahab was approved for sanctuary in the UK more than two months ago. But last night he was still hiding among crowds at the airport, fearing he may be left behind. British officers who worked with him during his nearly 15 years at the Camp Bastion UK base said he should be ‘saved as a priority’.

    They said Wahab was a key figure advising on religious matters and overseeing 1,000 Afghans employed by the UK. Major James Bolter said: ‘He faces certain death if he remains…Wahab was working for the infidel in religious matters, which to the Taliban is the ultimate sin, and would make him gold dust as a target. To them, he is a traitor to his country and his religion. It is chilling to think what might happen to him.’

    He stressed: ‘Wahab was our religious guide and also our shop steward among more than 1,000 Afghans.

    ‘His importance to us was massive and he has been sitting outside the airport for 48 hours with his wife and three daughters and two sons waiting to be called.’

    UK-based former translator Hashmat Nawabi, who worked with the imam, said they had been in contact and ‘he was very, very frightened – and did not understand why he was waiting. He told me “If the Taliban find me and discover I was a mullah for British forces everyone will know my fate”.’

    Mr Nawabi insisted: ‘Wahab was a very well-known figure in Helmand. Please rescue him and his family. The mullah must not be left behind.’

     

    Britain said yesterday it still had 2,000 Afghan translators, related workers and their families to get out – and the likelihood is that there are only 36 hours left before its paratroopers have to begin packing up. 

    Musa, 35, a former supervisor of interpreters for the UK military, said: ‘If we miss the flights and the airport closes, we could be left to die.  

    ‘The Taliban will want their revenge and those who helped the Western forces are their target. I pray this is not us.’ 

    Hussain, 48, who worked on the front lines in Helmand, said: ‘Those who do not escape will have been abandoned to their fate by those they risked their lives for. 

    ‘I am very frightened I may be among them.’

    Campaigners said yesterday 60 interpreters had been blocked on security grounds and 20 were still waiting to hear if they qualified.

    Another 40 have not responded to calls from the Afghan team handling their cases, raising concerns they are missing.

    Musa, who was approved for sanctuary in Britain, waited yesterday for the phone to ring with instructions to go to the airport.

    The father of three, who worked for more than four years with UK troops in Helmand, said: ‘I pray for the message to arrive… Soon it will be too late.’

    Hussain, who was also approved for relocation here, said he and his family had waited in the crush two days for a flight from Kabul airport. 

    He said: ‘We have visas but I fear the gate may never open for us.’

    The Daily Mail has been fighting for the safe relocation of Afghan translators since 2015 through the award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign.

    But it was only in April that the Ministry of Defence launched its Afghan relocation and assistance policy scheme which began to bring large numbers of former translators to this country.

    But rather than sending a fleet of military planes to Kabul to collect as many interpreters as quickly as possible, defence officials opted instead for weekly flights.

     It meant that when the Taliban stormed into Kabul thousands of translators and their dependents were left stranded.

    Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was criticised for not making a call to the then-Afghan foreign minister two days before the capital fell, which, said critics, could have meant more interpreters would have escaped.

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