'UK failed to stand up to US over bungled Afghan withdrawal'
MP Tobias Elmwood concerned over hostile nature of evacuations, possibility of leaving allies behind
The chair of the UK parliamentary defense select committee accused the British government of failing to stand up to the United States over the chaotic and violent withdrawal of its forces from Afghanistan following the Taliban victory.
In an interview with the Times Radio on Sunday, Tobias Elmwood said it was the responsibility and duty of the US and its allies to safely evacuate not only soldiers and civilian staff but also the Afghan nationals who aided and supported coalition forces during the 20-year conflict.
“Why is it that we didn’t stand up and tell the United States, if you want to get Afghans out -- you have a duty of care for these people who will be pursued by the Taliban -- you don’t get your military out first, you get the civilians out, then you retreat yourselves? We’ve done it the other way round,” Ellwood said.
“I worry about two scenarios which could unfold. Firstly, an isolated incident; an exchange of fire between rogue Taliban and a US or UK soldier that escalates and immediately the US commander says, right, we’ve got to get out of here and presses the exit button,” the defense chair added.
Ellwood also spoke of his concern on the bleak possibility that the gates of Kabul airport would have to be closed and those Afghans who have the ability to escape will be left behind and will thus face an uncertain future.
“We’ll reach a terminal point when we have to close the gate and no more Afghans can be processed, and we start to have to withdraw ourselves.”
Evacuations continue despite chaos
UK withdrawals of its soldiers, embassy staff, and charity workers as well as British and Afghan nationals continue despite increasing scenes of chaos, anarchy, and desperation at the embattled Kabul airport.
The Armed Forces Minister James Heappey, in an interview with Sky News, said 1,721 people had been evacuated from the airport in the last 24 hours, with the number of evacuations set to rise. Heappey, however, warned that the situation on the ground could change.
“The crowds could swell again and everything could become as desperate as you saw yesterday, but for as long as that is not the case, as long as the marshalling continues to be as it is today, we will be able to process people in good volumes and that will allow us to ensure that the absolute minimum number of people are left behind, if any at all.”
Up to 20 people have now died at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, many of them suffocating to the death in stampedes as hundreds of Afghans attempt to flee the country. The US and coalition forces have set up bases in the airport to coordinate evacuations, struggling in recent days to control the crowds of people attempting to flee.
The Taliban is attempting to re-establish control of the airport by ordering people into queues and preventing them from massing on the airport’s perimeter. Taliban officials are in talks with US military officials to ensure a safe and orderly evacuation of all personnel and Afghan nationals.
The armed movement, which swept to power in a lightning offensive last week, has granted a general amnesty to those Afghans who worked with coalition forces as well as to the former government and military. It has decreed safe passage to those looking to flee the country.
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