Afghanistan crisis: Defence Secretary Ben Wallace insists Nato forces ‘not going back’ to Kabul as Taliban take control

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has acknowledged that the Taliban “are in control” of Afghanistan – but he insisted Nato will not be returning to take over Kabul.

Speaking to Sky News, he said: “I think we all saw that and felt a real sense of sadness that first of all the forces that the British and the international community had invested in had melted away in some areas so quickly.”

“You don’t fix things overnight in global issues, you have to manage them… when that deal was done a few years ago, what happened was ultimately we undermined the community – the deal undermined the Afghan government and left it in a place that ultimately saw the end… the river flows fastest towards the end and that is what we saw yesterday and it’s what we’re seeing in our pictures today.”

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The 16 Air Assault Brigade arriving in Kabul as part of a 600-strong UK-force sent to assist with Operation PITTING to rescue British nationals in Afghanistan amidst the worsening security situation there.

He added: “My job as as defence secretary is to make sure that we protect not only the UK nationals, but those Afghans we have an obligation to, that is actually why we’re in the country. For the last few weeks we’ve been in the country solely to process those people and to make sure we protect our officials doing that job and we’ll continue to do so.”

Asked if he acknowledged the Taliban had won the war, he said: “I don’t know about a win, I think, I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country. You don’t have to be a political scientist to spot that’s where we’re at.”

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Asked if Nato was going to return and take over Kabul, Wallace said: “No, look that’s not on the cards that we’re going to go back.”

He added: “The US have made itself clear that they’re not intending to stay and as the framework nation that leaves us with difficult choices and I’ve been pretty much honest about that all the way through this process.”

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On the airlift of British nationals, he added: “The military flights are coming in and out, they’ve just brought in more UK soldiers.

“Border Force is joining us to make sure that we accelerate the process to get more Afghans out, which is our obligation. We flew out 370 staff and British citizens, eligible personnel yesterday and the day before and we’ll continue to engage those flights.

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“The next group of Afghans to come out will be 782 and we’ll make sure we get them in the next 24 to 36 hours out of the country and are continuing to process those people.”

Wallace said of the Afghanistan evacuation: “We will do everything we can to bring as many people out as possible.”

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Asked if the Taliban had changed, he told Sky News: “It does not look like a change… The leadership has a responsibility to make sure that it upholds human rights.”

Asked about the prospect of the Taliban flag flying over the UK embassy in Kabul, he said: “That’s the consequence of the Taliban, it’s not the embassy anymore, we have left that location, we’ve drawn down within the airport… symbolically it’s not what any of us wanted.”

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