News & Politics

'We Have a Matter of Hours': UK Draws Down in Kabul as More Attacks Are Expected

'We Have a Matter of Hours': UK Draws Down in Kabul as More Attacks Are Expected
AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon

The UK closed its main processing site at the Kabul airport and has just hours left before the final plane evacuates Afghanistan.

“We will process the people that we’ve brought with us, the 1,000 people approximately in the airfield now, and we will seek a way to continue to find a few people in the crowds where we can, but overall the main processing is now closed and we have a matter of hours,” UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace stated Friday morning. “It is with deep regret that not everyone has been able to be evacuated during this process.”

Between 800 to 1,100 Afghans who worked with Britain and had been eligible to leave the country will not make it through, Wallace confirmed to LBC radio.

The UK was able to evacuate13,146 people from Afghanistan, according to the Ministry of Defense.

FACT-O-RAMA! British authorities abandoned their Afghanistan embassy but left the names and contact information of seven Afghans who worked for them and/or had applied for jobs with the UK embassy. The information was found by reporters as the Taliban patrolled the embassy. Some of the people listed were still on the wrong side of the airport wall. Some didn’t answer reporters’ phone calls.

Wallace also confirmed to Sky News that the UK’s Baron Hotel processing center, as well as the Abbey Gate to the Kabul airport, had been closed. Both were targets of yesterday’s suicide bombing attacks—attacks the Pentagon described as “complex.”

Wallace said the UK will continue to assist those eligible Afghans who cannot be evacuated from the airport. However, those people will need to make their way to another country.

“We will make sure that we have our visa processing centers or indeed our enhanced capabilities in and around the region and those neighboring countries, and people who can should make their way to that third country and we will process them.”

ISIS-K (short for Islamic State Khorasan), an ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack that killed 170, 13 of whom were U.S. troops.

Wallace said that the attacks had not forced the UK to end its mission earlier than scheduled. “We closed the Baron Hotel almost exactly on schedule. The explosion was horrendous, but it didn’t hasten our departure,” he claimed.

More Attacks Expected

Wallace also warned that the terror threat will grow at the airport as NATO forces get closer to pulling out.

“The threat is obviously going to grow the closer we get to leaving,” Wallace told Sky News. “The narrative is always going to be, as we leave, certain groups such as ISIS will want to stake a claim that they have driven out the U.S. or the UK.”

U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., commander of U.S. Central Command, also said he expected attacks by ISIS to continue, including attacks that involve rockets or car bombs.

“The threat from ISIS is extremely real,” McKenzie cautioned on Thursday. “We’ve been talking about this several days, we saw it actually manifest itself here in the last few hours, with an actual attack. We expect those attacks to continue. And we’re doing everything we can to be prepared for those attacks,” he stated.