Boris Johnson Says UK Is Doing "Everything We Can" To Get People Out Of Afghanistan As Deadline Looms
The Prime Minister has claimed the "lion's share" of eligible people have been evacuated from Afghanistan but admitted there would still be those who "need help".
Boris Johnson issued a warning the Taliban that allowing evacuations to continue was a "key precondition" of securing a diplomatic relationship with the West after the group threatened to close Kabul airport.
Around 15,000 people have already been taken out the country by British troops since the Taliban captured the capital earlier this month, including British nationals and interpreters who had aided coalition forces.
But Johnson admitted while the "overwhelmingy majority" of elibigle people had been evacuated that they were still working to remove those who "need help".
UK ministers have also admitted there is now a "credible and imminent" threat of terror attacks against Kabul airport, including from Islamic State groups, and urged people not to go there, which could harm the evacuation efforts.
Speaking on Thursday, Johnson said: "I think we have to be transparent about the risks, that we have to be realistic about what’s going on, and you’ll appreciate that there are Islamic State Khorasan province (Isis-K) terrorists out there.
"I can’t go into the details, clearly. But we have to be mindful of the security of our personnel, but also of the Afghan people who are trying to get out."
Foreign leaders have already said that evacuation efforts were likely to conclude in the coming days after the Taliban set a deadline of 31 August, despite chaotic scenes at the air hub as people rush to escape the country.
Johnson added: "In the time we have left, which may be – as I'm sure everybody can appreciate – quite short, we'll do everything we can to get everybody else."
The Foreign Office has already urged people to avoid travelling to Kabul due to the "severe" terror threat, adding that those in the country seeking evacuation should "move away to a safe location and await further guidance".
Taliban forces have in recent days established checkpoints on the roads towards the airport, with FCDO officials saying the route was now "extremely dangerous" with people allegedly "mistreated" by troops as they sought help from UK and US forces based there.
But Johnson added the Taliban should "understand" that allowing the final evacuations to continue would be a "key precondition" to unlocking future aid funding.
He said: "What we're hoping, and this is the key point that the G7 agreed, is that the Taliban understand that if they want to engage with development aid, they want to unlock those billions of funds, they want to have a diplomatic, political relationship with the outside world, then the safe passage for those who want to come out is the key precondition."
Speaking earlier, armed forces minister James Heappey told the BBC an attack on the airport could happen within "hours".
"People are desperate, people are fearing for their lives anyway, and so I think there's an appetite among many in the queue to take their chances," he said.
"I can’t stress the desperation of the situation enough – the threat is credible, it is imminent, it is lethal.
"We wouldn’t be saying this if we weren’t genuinely concerned about offering Islamic State a target."
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