PM tells families of fallen heroes in Afghanistan ‘Your suffering was not in vain’
Afghanistan: Biden decision 'will impact for years' says Farage
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The RAF’s final flights out of Kabul landed in the UK yesterday, bringing to a close the long campaign which cost the lives of 457 brave soldiers. In a video message, Boris Johnson said that their sacrifice had kept Britain safe. The Prime Minister told their families: “Your suffering and your hardship were not in vain. “It was no accident that there has been no terrorist attack launched against Britain or any other western country from Afghanistan in the last 20 years.” Mr Johnson’s heart-felt words came as the last British troops involved in the biggest evacuation since the Second World War arrived back home.
All throughout yesterday, exhausted soldiers, diplomats and officials were touching down in the UK after a frantic two-week mission that airlifted 15,000 people to safety.
In all, more than 100 RAF flights took place, carrying 5,000 Britons and their families, and more than 8,000 Afghan former UK staff and families.
About 2,200 children were taken to safety, with the youngest just one day old.
The arrivals came amid heightened security fears in Kabul. The US ordered the evacuation of people surrounding Kabul airport because of a “credible” threat from ISIS-K.
US forces will leave Afghanistan by tomorrow after the Taliban refused to extend the deadline for withdrawal.
Up to 150 Britons and as many as 1,100 eligible Afghans were stranded in the UK’s hasty evacuation mission.
Mr Johnson admitted he would not have wished to leave Afghanistan this way, but pledged not to abandon those left behind.
The PM hailed British troops for their “colossal exertions” as the operation drew to a close.
Mr Johnson said it was at the “darkest and most difficult moments” that the UK’s Armed Forces “have always performed their greatest feats”.
Military planes landed back at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire yesterday and senior RAF sources said a small number of military personnel on other aircraft would be arriving back today.
Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Laurie Bristow was greeted by Sir Philip Barton, the Permanent Under-Secretary of the Foreign Office, as he exited a plane at the air station.
Mr Johnson said: “It is the culmination of a mission unlike anything we have seen in our lifetimes. UK troops and officials have worked round the clock to a remorseless deadline.
“In harrowing conditions, they have expended all the patience and care and thought they possess to help people in fear for their lives.
“They have seen at first hand barbaric terrorist attacks on the queues of people they were trying to comfort as well as on our American friends.
“They did not flinch. They kept calm. They got on with the job.
“It is thanks to their colossal exertions that this country has now processed, checked, vetted and airlifted more than 15,000 people to safety in less than two weeks.” Mr Johnson said the Afghans who have arrived in the UK “have proved their loyalty to this country beyond doubt”.
He added: “Interpreting, guiding, helping to keep our people safe for two decades in a series of Afghan operations.
“That has seen 150,000 serving men and women do a tour of duty and which has cost the lives of 457 troops and injured thousands more.”
The PM said he wanted to “speak directly” to troops and the families of those killed and injured.
He added: “Thanks to the devotion of British troops and aid workers and diplomats, we have helped to educate 3.6 million girls.
“And whatever the future may hold for Afghanistan, they will have that gift for the rest of their lives, a gift they will pass on to their daughters as well as their sons.”
The PM said the Taliban must ensure safe passage for those who wish to leave the country, respect the rights of women and girls and prevent Afghanistan from “becoming an incubator for global terror” if it wants diplomatic recognition.
He said: “We will use every lever we have – political, economic, diplomatic – to help the people of Afghanistan and to protect our own country from harm.”
Vice Admiral Ben Key, the Chief of Joint Operations who commanded the evacuation mission, admitted there was a “sense of sadness” that not all could be saved.
He said: “We recognise and pay testament to the achievement of everything that has been achieved by coalition forces, but particularly the British contingent, over the last two weeks.
“In the end, we know that there are some really sad stories of people who have desperately tried to leave that we have, no matter how hard our efforts, been unsuccessful in evacuating.”
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden yesterday attended an event marking the transfer of the bodies of fallen service members at Dover Air Force Base, in Delaware.
Thirteen members of the US military had been killed in an attack in Kabul last week.
It comes amid fierce criticism of his handling of the crisis.
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