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Thursday, January 27, 2022

UK to move Afghanistan embassy to Qatar as rocket attack strikes Kabul


Britain’s last military flight left Kabul on Sunday after evacuating more than 15,000 people two weeks after the Taliban’s takeover.

The UK will be relocating its Afghanistan embassy to Qatar, its ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow, one of the last diplomats to leave Afghanistan, said on Sunday.

Bristow’s departure marked the end of UK’s presence in Afghanistan. In an online announcement, the British diplomat vowed to reopen his country’s embassy “as soon as possible”.

“We have had to leave Afghanistan for now and the embassy will operate from Qatar for the time being,” he said in a twitter announcement upon arrival to the UK, where he was greeted by Sir Philip Barton, permanent under-secretary of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.

“But we will continue to stand by the people of Afghanistan, working on humanitarian, diplomatic and security work and above all bringing to the UK Afghans and British nationals who still need our support, and we will be putting pressure on the Taliban to allow safe passage for those people,” he added.

The British ambassador has served as the UK’s consulate to Kabul since June.

Shortly before his arrival to the UK, Britain’s last military flight left Kabul after evacuating more than 15,000 people two weeks after the Taliban’s takeover of the capital.

“We should be proud of our armed forces, welcoming to those coming for a better life and sad for those left behind,” Defence Minister Ben Wallace said after the departure of the final British flight.

The UK was among the first foreign countries to join the US in its invasion of Afghanistan to fight the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks in 2001. More than 450 British armed forces and personnel died during the past two decades of war in Afghanista.

On Friday, Wallace estimated that between 800 and 1,100 Afghans who had worked with Britain were unable to make it out of Afghanistan by air, pledging to help them leave the country by land instead.

Foreign forces are running out of time to evacuate their personnel as well as Afghans who cooperated with them over the past 20 years, as the 31 August deadline to withdraw all troops from the country looms on the horizon/

The Taliban has warned against extending the deadline as that would constitute a “second violation” of the US’ agreement with the group, given that President Joe Biden had already changed the initial 1 May deadline for the troop pull out.

However, there are more threats facing those at Hamid Karzai International Airport amid a resurgence of the IS-affiliated Khorasan group, which the Taliban sees as its enemy.

On Sunday, a rocket struck the Khuwja Bughra neighbourhood, located in the northwest of Kabul’s international airport, killing a child. As of now, no group has claimed the attack.

ISIS-K launched multiple attacks at the gates of Kabul’s airport on Thursday, killing at least 175 people, most of whom civilians. Two British nationals as well as 13 US troops were among those killed in the deadly bombings.

NATO, US Congress praise Qatar’s ‘bold leadership’ in Afghanistan airlift operation

Qatar immediately condemned Thursday’s attack, reiterating its position in “rejecting violence and terrorism, regardless of the motives and reasons”.

General Nick Carter, the head of Britain’s armed forces, said that Britain and its allies might cooperate with the Taliban in the future to fight the IS militant group.

“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 [can] operate together,” Carter told Sky News.

“But we’ve got to wait and see. Certainly some of the stories we get about the way that they are treating their enemies would mean it would be quite difficult for us to work with them at the moment,” he added.

The speed at which the events in Afghanistan developed led to rushed evacuations, with the US and its allies conducting one of the biggest air evacuations in history, moving more than 100,000 people out of the country.

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