What you need to know about Afghanistan:
British troops will end their evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan on Saturday and many hundreds of Afghans entitled to resettlement in Britain are likely to be left behind, armed forces chief Gen. Nick Carter said.
Ben Wallace, the British defence minister, said on Friday that the country was entering the final hours of its evacuation and would process only people who were already inside Kabul airport.
“We have some civilian flights to take out, but it is very few now,” Carter told the BBC. “We’re reaching the end of the evacuation, which will take place during the course of today. And then it will be necessary to bring our troops out on the remaining aircraft,” he said.
Britain’s defence ministry said late on Friday that it had evacuated more than 14,500 Afghan and British nationals in the two weeks since the Taliban took control of the country.
Wallace said on Friday that he estimated between 800 and 1,100 Afghans who had worked with Britain and were eligible to leave the country would not make it through, and Carter estimated the total would be in the “high hundreds.”
Many Afghans unable to leave judged it was too dangerous to travel to Kabul airport, Carter said.
Distressing messages from those left behind
“People like me … we are forever receiving messages and texts from our Afghan friends that are very distressing. We’re living this in the most painful way,” he added.
Britain was a key ally of Washington from the start of a U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that toppled the then-ruling Taliban.
Carter, speaking to Sky News, said Britain and its allies might co-operate with the Taliban in future to tackle threats from the Islamic State militant group. The group, enemies of both Western countries and the Taliban, was responsible for a suicide bombing just outside Kabul airport on Thursday that killed scores of people, including 13 U.S. service members.
“If the Taliban are able to demonstrate that they can behave in the way that a normal government would behave in relation to a terrorist threat, we may well discover that we operate together,” Carter said.
Canada’s military evacuation mission in Kabul ended on Thursday — just hours before the airport suicide bombing — but the federal government has said it’s continuing to work to find ways to get Canadians and vulnerable Afghans out of Afghanistan.
Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau on Friday said Canada airlifted about 3,700 people during the operation and called on those still trapped in Afghanistan to not “lose hope.”
“At the moment, we’re asking people to stay put because there is a lot of things that are going on at the moment and we’re going to keep in constant contact with them,” he said.
Italy’s final evacuation flight of refugees from Afghanistan has landed at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport.
The Italian Air Force C-130J with 58 Afghan citizens aboard arrived Saturday morning, some 17 hours after it departed from the Kabul airport and after a planned stopover.
Also aboard were Italy’s consul and a NATO diplomat who had co-ordinated evacuations at the Kabul airport.
Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said Italy was prepared to work with the United Nations and with countries bordering Afghanistan on what he described as the “more difficult phase.”
He said that consisted of efforts to evacuate other Afghan citizens who worked with Italy’s military during its 20-year presence in Afghanistan but weren’t able to get into Kabul airport in time for the evacuation flights. He didn’t say how many still were eligible for evacuation to Italy.
Rescuing those citizens “would give them the same possibility” of starting a new life outside their homeland, Di Maio said in a brief statement at Rome’s airport. He said the 4,890 Afghans evacuated by Italy’s air force in 87 flights was the highest number of any European Union nation.
Italy’s remaining soldiers left on a separate flight from Kabul on Friday night. That air force flight went to Kuwait and the troops are due back in Italy early next week.
2 more planes of evacuees land in Albania
The Albanian government said 154 Afghans had landed in two separate planes in the capital Tirana on Saturday to escape Taliban rule.
A government spokesperson confirmed the arrival of the first plane with 95 Afghans and the second, two hours later, with 59 Afghans, without giving more details. On Friday, a group of 121 Afghans arrived in Tirana as part of the evacuation operation.
They are permitted to stay for at least one year in Albania while proceeding with applications for special visas for final settlement in the U.S.
Albania has said it may house up to 4,000 Afghans who have left their country to seek refuge.
U.S. launches drone strike
The United States military struck back at the Islamic State on Saturday, bombing an ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) member in Afghanistan less than 48 hours after the suicide bombing at a main entrance to Kabul’s airport.
“The unmanned air strike occurred in the Nangarhar province of Afghanistan,” said Capt. William Urban, spokesperson for U.S. Central Command. He said the strike killed one person believed to have been involved in planning attacks against the U.S. in Kabul.
However, it wasn’t clear if that individual was involved specifically in Thursday’s suicide blast.