The British Ministry of Defense said that the last flights of the United Kingdom to evacuate civilians from Afghanistan took off from the airport in the capital, Kabul.
The remaining flights will carry British diplomats and military personnel, according to the ministry.
Earlier, the commander of the British armed forces, General Nick Carter, said that the United Kingdom’s operations to evacuate civilians from Afghanistan would end Saturday.
“It breaks my heart” that they could not save everyone, Carter said, noting that hundreds of Afghans eligible to move to Britain were still stuck in Afghanistan.
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Friday it had evacuated 14,543 people from Kabul since August 13.
“Things went well under the circumstances… but we weren’t able to evacuate everyone, and that’s heartbreaking. We had to make tough decisions on the ground,” the army chief of staff told BBC radio.
At the height of operations, more than 1,000 British military personnel were in Kabul to help operate flights from the airport. Some have already left, while the rest will return over the weekend.
He set August 31 as the deadline for foreign forces to leave Afghanistan.
Carter stated that the number of Afghans eligible for deportation to Britain and still in Afghanistan was estimated at “many hundreds”.
He pointed out that the reason was that some of them did not want to risk going to the airport, or could not, and not because of problems with paperwork.
But he added, “We always get text messages from our friends in Afghanistan about their worrying circumstances. So we all live in extreme pain.”
The evacuations included British nationals, 8,000 Afghans eligible to move to Britain who had worked with the British government, and a number of people most at risk.
The British government said Friday that between 800 and 1,100 Afghans are eligible for deportation and between 100 and 150 British nationals are still in Afghanistan.
The House of Commons foreign affairs committee chairman, Tom Tugendat, who was a military officer in Afghanistan, told the BBC he was “deeply saddened” that many of his friends were still stuck there, and that he was continuing to work to help people leave the country.
But he advised people not to risk trying to go to the airport because of the many checkpoints on the highways.
“We are seeking to find other ways, including the exit of people to a third country, and then contacting British diplomatic representations there to facilitate their safe deportation to Britain.”
A businesswoman, Hasina Sayed, who left Afghanistan on August 16, said the international community is required to find a solution with the Taliban to get more people out.
“We simply cannot forget those who are left there,” the businesswoman, whose family members have remained in Afghanistan, told the BBC.
The United States oversees the management of Kabul Airport, which was attacked Thursday, killing more than 170 people.
Britain’s defense, home and foreign ministers wrote to MPs to ensure that the government would continue to support those left behind in Afghanistan.
What is happening to Afghan refugees in Britain?
- Those arriving on official trips are subject to a 10-day quarantine in a hotel
- The government and local authorities seek to provide them with permanent housing
- The lack of housing means that many of them will be staying in hotels
- Some of them get refugee status and can stay in Britain permanently
- Some are granted a 5-year visa to reside and work, and then they can apply for permanent residence
- Individual arrivals seek regular asylum among a list of 70,000 registered
- They cannot settle or work while their applications are being examined
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