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In breach of trust, is the UK abandoning some of its own in Afghanistan?

Desperate scenes at the Hamid Karzai airport, Kabul (Photo: IANS)

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told media persons in the UK on Monday that some people would be left behind in Afghanistan, particularly those that are not in Kabul.

The Guardian reported that Wallace, who is a former military man, admitted "some people will not get back" and added that it was a "really deep part of regret for me" that it would not be possible to extricate all Afghans who are eligible to come to the UK.

Wallace said that many of these people will have to make asylum applications after the evacuation, possibly from third countries.

With Afghan capital Kabul falling to the Taliban insurgents on Sunday, the shell-shocked people in the country are scrambling to get out of the war-torn place. Over the last two days the world is witnessing horrific scenes as frantic Afghans, with no faith in the Taliban, are trying to clamber onto aeroplanes to get out of Afghanistan. Thousands have besieged the airport and its runways to be able to make it out of the country somehow. 

For the moment the UK is giving priority to getting British nationals and those Afghans who worked for the British forces. The UK hopes to bring back about 1,000 people every day. Though the government has kept a deadline of August 31 to bring the 'eligible people' back to the UK, it is also keeping the evacuation in an "open-ended" mode.

The UK sent 600 British troops under Operation Pitting to Afghanistan to help in the evacuation of British nationals as well as Afghan interpreters and other staff. The BBC says that the air force has marked out eight military aircraft for the evacuation.The BBC quoted the Defence Secretary as saying: "… Mr Wallace said he had received assurances from the Taliban leadership via a Middle East country that the military part of the airport would be allowed to function, enabling UK officials and forces to help people leave".

The opposition parties have criticised the UK government's response. The Labour Party has urged the government to expand the resettlement scheme for those Afghans who had helped the British forces.

Other British politicians have described the exodus from the Kabul airport as "Saigon 2.0"—reminiscent of the chaotic withdrawal of Americans from Vietnam.