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Monday, 04 March 2024
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UK Defence Secretary: No plane from Kabul has left empty
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According to the BBC, the UK defence secretary has said no plane carrying Britons and Afghans from Kabul has left empty.


The Secretary of defence, Ben Wallace, rejected reports that some flights from Kabul contained only a few people, saying the UK was "absolutely ploughing through the numbers".


He told BBC Breakfast "every hour counts" and confirmed "the Taliban are letting our people through".


But Taliban checkpoints ring the perimeter of the airport and chaotic scenes have been unfolding outside.


The BBC said, about 4,500 US troops are in temporary control of Karzai International Airport, with about 900 British soldiers also on patrol at the site as part of efforts to secure the evacuation flights.


It added, the Taliban are blocking Afghans without travel documents from entering. Twelve people have been killed in and around Kabul airport since Sunday, according to a Taliban official quoted by the Reuters news agency.


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But even those with valid papers have struggled to get to the airport, with reports that some have been beaten by Taliban guards.


An Afghan interpreter who worked for the British army said he received permission to come to the UK last week, but was now in hiding and would "face death" if the Taliban found him.


Read more: Ashraf Ghani left Kabul to prevent ‘bloodshed’, took $169 million in cash with him


According to the BBC, the defence secretary said the UK would continue to stay in Afghanistan as long as the US ran the airport, but said the government was also already investing in "third country hubs" for processing people "if they get out to other countries in the region".


Mr Wallace said seven to 10 RAF planes were taking off every day, with at least 138 due on the next flight out.


He said the passengers on the flights out of Afghanistan this week had included British government personnel, British citizens, media and human rights staff and Afghans who had worked for the UK.


Two evacuation flights came into the UK on Wednesday, the Ministry of Defence said - a military plane into RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire and a passenger plane into an unnamed civilian airport.


On board were Afghans being relocated under the ARAP scheme for those who worked with the British military, British citizens and some other foreign nationals. The MoD did not provide exact numbers but said each flight could hold about 250 passengers.


Read more: 14 million people facing severe hunger in Afghanistan


Mr Wallace said a plane left Kabul on Thursday morning carrying "115 people and their families - those are the Afghans on there as opposed to other personnel".


He added: "None of our planes are leaving empty... our planes never leave empty. If we have spaces on them, we offer them up to other nations."


He said: "We have a full programme today of many more people coming out - trying to reach our... capability towards the end of the month. And that is so far on track.... we are doing it as fast as we can."


Mr Wallace said many of the flights were at full capacity.


"You and I wouldn't be allowed to fly some of the way those planes are flying in safety, so we are taking considerable risk", he said, adding: "Alongside those people will be troops or others coming in and out."


Source: BBC