The UK defence secretary struggled to hold back tears on a live radio interview as he admitted that “some people won’t get back” from Afghanistan.
The emotional interview with talk-radio station LBC came as western forces scramble to evacuate people from Kabul after it fell to the Taliban. There have been chaotic scenes at Kabul airport, as frightened residents desperately try to escape the Taliban advance. Videos show people running around the tarmac where airplanes are parked.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace spoke of the need to get British passport holders, British officials and Afghan allies out of the country.
“We are only now in Afghanistan and have been for the last two weeks to process those people. We’re not doing other diplomatic functions, we are simply there to process all those diplomatic passport holders and all those people we have an obligation to and our our men and women of our armed forces are risking their lives in doing that but that is the right thing to do, they have risked their lives the last 20 years and at the very least our obligation has to be [to get] as many of these people through the pipeline as possible,” he said.
Then, visibly breaking down he said, “But I think I also said, and it’s a really deep part of [the] regret for me, that some people won’t get back. Some people won’t get back. And we will have to do our best in a third country to process those people.”
Asked by host Nick Ferrari why he feels it so personally, he said, “Because I’m a soldier. Because it’s sad and the West has done what it’s done and we have to do our very best, Nick, to get people out and stand by our obligations and 20 years of sacrifice is what it is.”
As the scramble to get out of Afghanistan continues, British forces from 16 Air Assault Brigade are in Kabul to assist people eligible to evacuate under Operation Pitting. British Ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow was still in Kabul on Sunday assisting consular staff providing assistance to British nationals and Afghan staff.
In recent weeks, interpreters who worked with international forces have told VICE World News how they feared for their lives as foreign troops withdrew and the Taliban closed in. People even desperately replied to Ministry of Defence tweets, asking for assistance they have not been able to access.
Military sources told the Times newspaper that the Home Office has been reluctant to give asylum to Afghan allies, including Afghan special forces trained by the SAS, because of the perceived message that it would send to refugees.
US and UK forces and allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the Taliban as part of the War on Terror following the 9/11 attacks. After hundreds of thousands of deaths, all western forces are now leaving the country and the Taliban are taking the country over once again.