Defence Secretary Breaks Down Admitting That Some People Won't Escape Afghanistan
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace held back tears as he admitted some people would "not get back" from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of capital Kabul over the weekend.
Wallace, a former soldier, gave an emotional response to LBC's Nick Ferrari when asked on Monday morning when the government expected to have carried out a full evacuation of British passporters, officials, and qualifying Afghans as the country is taken over by the Islamist military organisation.
He said the government planned to have evacuated all "entitled personnel" by 31 August and that the 700-plus British soldiers who are in the country are there solely to "process all those British passport holders and those we have an obligation to."
He said: “Our men and women in the armed forced are risking their lives in doing that, but that is the right thing to do. Our obligation, at the very least, is as many people trough the pipeline as possible."
The Secretary of State for Defence choked up as he added: "But it’s a very deep part of regret for me that some people won’t get back. Some people won’t get back and we will have to do our best, as well as third countries, to process those people."
Asked why he was affected "so personally," Wallace said "because I'm a sold-", paused, and then continued: "Because it’s sad that the West had done what it has done. We have to do our very best to get people out and stand by our obligations. Twenty years of sacrifice is what it is.”
Downing Street confirmed over the weekend that Parliament would be recalled from it summer recess on Wednesday to debate the rapidly-detoriating situation in Afghanistan.
Thousands are trying to flee the country, with footage showing crowds of panicked people trying to board planes at Kabul airport, after the Taliban swept across the country in the space of just a couple of weeks before taking control of the presidential palace.
The decision of President Joe Biden to go ahead with plans to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, which was followed by the Taliban's lightning advance across the country, has received international condemnation and been blamed in large part for the collapse of the Afghan government.
The government's decision to follow the White House and withdraw its own soldiers from the US-led twenty-year operation has been criticised vehemently by Conservative MPs and opposition politicians, however.
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chair of the foreign affairs committee, on Aunday told the BBC the situation was "the biggest single foreign policy disaster" since Suez Crisis in 1956.
His Conservative colleague Tobias Ellwood MP, chair of the defence select committee, told PoliticsHome he was "flabbergasted" by the UK's "completely timid" response. “Where are we? If the United States doesn't step forward, as occasionally it hesitates, Britain has a moral duty to lead the West," he said.
Boris Johnson, who last week ruled out a UK military response to situation in Afghanistan, convened a CORBA meeting on Sunday and spoke to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and the UN Secretary General António Guterre.
The Prime Minister on Sunday said: "I think it is very important that the West should work collectively to get over to that new government — be it by the Taliban or anybody else — that nobody wants Afghanistan once again to be a breeding ground for terror and we don't think it is in the interests of the people of Afghanistan that it should lapse back into that pre-2001 status."
He added: "What the UK will be doing is working with our partners in the UN Security, in NATO, to get that message over. We don't want anybody to bilaterally recognise the Taliban.
"We want a united position among all the like-minded, as far as we can get one, so that we do whatever we can to prevent Afghanistan lapsing back into a breeding ground for terror."
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