Last UK troops leave Kabul, Boris Johnson hails 'heroic' evacuation effort

Most countries, except the United States, have said that they have completed their evacuation mission in Afghanistan. The British ministry of defence said that about 14,000 people were airlifted out of Kabul airport in less than two weeks, according to a report.
UK military personnel board an A400M aircraft departing Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 28, 2021. (Photo via REUTERS)
UK military personnel board an A400M aircraft departing Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 28, 2021. (Photo via REUTERS)
Updated on Aug 29, 2021 08:00 AM IST
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Written by Joydeep Bose, Hindustan Times, New Delhi

The last of the British troops in Afghanistan have now been evacuated out of the Kabul airport, ending the United Kingdom's two-decade-long military campaign in the war-torn country. Boris Johnson, the country's prime minister, praised the "heroic" evacuation efforts, even as his government acknowledged with regret that not everyone in need of repatriation could be brought back from Afghanistan.

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Johnson, in a heartfelt letter to the British troops, paid a tribute to the "heroic efforts" of all those involved in the evacuation operations, nicknamed 'Operation Pitting' and thanked the armed forces for ensuring that the mission is successfully carried out. The UK prime minister told the troops that they "should feel immense pride" for what they have done to bring closure to Britain's 20-year Afghan campaign. However, he also said that this is the time to reflect on all the 'sacrifices' that were made in the process.

"The departure of the last British soldiers from the country is a moment to reflect on everything we have sacrificed and everything we have achieved in the last two decades," Johnson said in an official statement as the final UK flight carrying troops and diplomatic personnel left the Kabul airport late on Saturday, hours after the final evacuation flight for civilians left.

Most countries, except the United States, have said that they have completed their evacuation mission in Afghanistan. The British ministry of defence, according to a report by the Guardian, said that about 14,000 people were airlifted out of Kabul airport in less than two weeks. It was "time to close this phase of the operation now", said Britain's ambassador to Afghanistan Laurie Bristow shortly before departing, adding a note for the people who could not be rescued from the war-torn country where Taliban insurgents had seized control in a matter of months.

“But we haven't forgotten the people who still need to leave,” Bristow said in a video posted on Twitter. “We'll continue to do everything we can to help them. Nor have we forgotten the brave, decent people of Afghanistan. They deserve to live in peace and security.”

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Johnson, in his statement, also said that the United Kingdom's "goals for the country" have not changed, even if the nature of engagement in Afghanistan has. "We will now use all the diplomatic and humanitarian tools at our disposal to preserve the gains of the last 20 years and give the Afghan people the future they deserve," he added.

According to the Associated Press, as many as 1,100 Afghans who were entitled to come to the UK were left behind in the war-torn country at the mercy of the Taliban. Some British lawmakers who have been trying to help stranded constituents and their families believe the true total is higher.

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Sunday, October 24, 2021