The ongoing efforts of the UK government to evacuate the British nationals and the eligible Afghans from war-weary Kabul are improving as more than 1,700 people have been airlifted since Saturday, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said on Sunday.
The minister said that the queue is flowing better on Sunday as the Taliban were marshalling people into separate UK and US evacuation queues, which was “making a big difference”, the BBC reported.
Meanwhile, the UK government said seven Afghan civilians had died in the chaotic crowds outside the airport.
As many as 731 had been processed on Sunday morning and were set to fly, Heappey said.
He urged more people to come forward if they had been told to do so.
Until now, a lot of people had been put off going to Baron Hotel in Kabul, where many British nationals have been told to travel for processing, because of reports of violence and chaotic scenes, he said.
“The sudden surge (of crowd at the airport) was because people have been hearing what politicians have been saying in London and Washington, and they had come to the conclusion that the foreign governments will stop the airlifts within days. That added to the already prevailing sense of panic,” the BBC quoted Kim Sengupta, the defence and security editor at a leading British media outlet, as saying.
Sengupta said that he saw four women die in the crushes outside the airport on Saturday, amid fierce heat and panic that they would not get out of Afghanistan in time.
Reiterating the previous comments from ministers, Heappey said that the UK could not say with confidence that it would get all British nationals out but, he said, more capacity was becoming available with each day and other nations were joining the UK’s evacuation effort.
The US has a planned deadline of 31 August for withdrawal from Afghanistan. However, President Biden has said troops may stay past this date to help with evacuations.
Writing for a publication, British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the US would have his complete support if it chose to push back the deadline for leaving but there was “no time to lose” to get people out of the country.