Afghanistan: Last UK troops leave Kabul on final military flight – bringing Britain’s 20-year campaign to an end

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The last remaining UK troops have been flown out of Kabul airport, ending Britain’s 20-year campaign in Afghanistan.

The final RAF plane left at 9.25pm, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said.

It comes after the last dedicated flight purely for the evacuation effort left the Afghan capital last night – and ahead of the 31 August deadline set by Joe Biden for American forces to withdraw.

Afghanistan live updates: British troops seen packed on to military plane as UK personnel depart Kabul

Ben Wallace pic
Troops left Afghanistan on packed military flights

Operation Pitting has now ended, with the UK evacuating 15,000 people from Kabul in a fortnight – including 5,000 British nationals and more than 8,000 Afghans who worked for the UK, and their families, as well as many highly vulnerable people.

Among those fleeing were approximately 2,200 children, who have now been lifted to safety – the youngest of whom was just one day old.

It has been the UK’s largest military evacuation since the Second World War.

Around 10,000 people have been brought to the UK under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which is double the number anticipated this year.

The British embassy and ambassador to Afghanistan, Laurie Bristow, will now be temporarily relocated to Qatar to lead the UK’s diplomatic, security and humanitarian engagement remotely.

The government said it intends to re-establish a diplomatic presence in Kabul “as soon as the security and political situation in the country allows”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “Twenty years ago, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, the first British soldier set foot on Afghan soil aiming to create a brighter future for the country and all its people.

“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.

“The nature of our engagement in Afghanistan may have changed, but our goals for the country have not. We will now use all the diplomatic and humanitarian tools at our disposal to preserve the gains of the last twenty years and give the Afghan people the future they deserve.”

Image shows UK military personnel onboard a A400M aircraft departing Kabul, Afghanistan on the 28 August 2021. 

As part of Operation PITTING; eligible Afghans are also being evacuated to the UK via the UAE under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Program (ARAP). Some will land and be processed at RAF Brize Norton (BZZ). This represents a valuable opportunity to showcase the ability of the RAF, and in particular the Air Mobility Force, to deliver large scale Air Transport operations at short n
British troops departing Afghanistan on Saturday

The government has said it will continue to provide help to any remaining British nationals and Afghans who have worked with the UK and who were not evacuated on time.

The UK also reiterated the legitimacy of the Taliban regime in the eyes of the G7 depends on the group continuing to provide safe passage for those who want to leave the country and safeguarding the rights of all Afghans.

The Home Office is working to establish the details of the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), which aims to provide protection for Afghan citizens identified as most at risk – such as women and girls.

The government has committed to take around 5,000 refugees in the first year and 20,000 over the coming years.

The final flight carrying UK troops has left Kabul. Pic: MoD
The final flight carrying UK troops left on Saturday evening. Pic: MoD

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Sharing an image of departing troops on a packed military plane earlier this evening, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said: “The UK should be very proud of what you have done. Every one of you has displayed the highest levels of professionalism and bravery.

“You have helped thousands to get to a better future and safety. Thank you.”

He later added: “In 14 days over 15,000 people have been airlifted on over 165 flights. We should be proud of our armed forces, welcoming to those coming for a better life, and sad for those left behind.

“Our obligation to them does not end with our leaving. There will be many lessons to learn but over the last 20 years there are also endless examples of amazing achievements, bravery and friendships formed. We will not forget those who lost their lives.”

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