London, August 23
The UK government said on Monday that it has reinforced its staff presence in Kabul to assist with the evacuation of British nationals from the Afghan capital.
Five staff from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) have joined 14 already working on the evacuation operation in Kabul, four of them arriving on Monday morning and one on Sunday night.
“This brings the total FCDO staff currently in Kabul to 19. This includes Ambassador Laurie Bristow, staff from British Embassy Kabul and FCDO rapid deployment team members,” an FCDO statement said.
“Alongside UK military, these staff are working round the clock to support evacuations on the ground in Kabul,” it said.
Last week the UK government announced plans to accept up to 20,000 Afghan refugees, with 5,000 expected to arrive in the first year.
It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson used the UK’s G7 presidency to convene an emergency meeting of world leaders on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in the region and push the US for an extension to its month-end deadline for the exit of troops from the country.
The talks between the G7 group of countries – including Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the UK – will take place virtually, with the main focus being the long-term future of Afghanistan.
Johnson has said it is vital the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to “secure the gains of the last 20 years”.
Meanwhile, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Monday that the UK has “hours now, not weeks” to evacuate people from Afghanistan.
Wallace said troops would leave Kabul’s airport when the US withdraws, which is due to happen on August 31.
“I don’t think there is any likelihood of staying on after the United States,” Wallace told the BBC.
“We are really down to hours now, not weeks. We have to make sure we exploit every minute to get people out,” he said.
While the UK is expected to ask US President Joe Biden for more time, a spokesperson for the Taliban has said it would not support an extension of the August 31 deadline.
Suhail Shaheen said an extension would mean extending Afghanistan’s occupation, and warned of consequences if that were to change.