The UK’s evacuation of civilians from Afghanistan will end on Saturday, the head of the armed forces has said.
Gen Sir Nick Carter said there were still some civilian flights leaving Kabul for the UK, but “very few now”.
He added it was “heartbreaking” they had not been able to rescue everybody, with hundreds of Afghans eligible to come to the UK still in Afghanistan.
A mass airlift has been under way at Kabul airport since the Taliban took control of the capital this month.
On Friday, the Ministry of Defence said the UK had evacuated 14,543 people from Kabul since 13 August.
Sir Nick, chief of the defence staff, told Radio 4’s Today programme: “We’re reaching the end of the evacuation, which will take place during the course of today, and then of course it’ll be necessary to bring our troops out on the remaining aircraft.
“It’s gone as well as it could do in the circumstances… but we haven’t been able to bring everybody out and that has been heartbreaking and there have been some very challenging judgements that have had to be made on the ground.”
He said the number of Afghans who were eligible to come to the UK but remained in Afghanistan was in the “high hundreds”.
He suggested some would not have wanted to take the risk of travelling to the airport – or been unable to – rather than it being down to “processing” issues.
But he added: “We are forever receiving messages and texts from our Afghan friends that are very distressing. So we’re all living this in the most painful way.”
He also said that people who hadn’t been able to leave via evacuation flights but are able to get out another way “will always be welcome in Britain”.
Those evacuated include British nationals as well as almost 8,000 Afghans eligible under the UK’s relocation scheme for those who worked for the UK government and other vulnerable individuals.
As of Friday, the government said between 800 and 1,100 eligible Afghans and 100 to 150 Britons had not been evacuated.
Chairman of the foreign affairs select committee Tom Tugendhat, who served in the military in Afghanistan, told BBC Breakfast it left him “extremely sad” so many of his friends had been left behind – but he was continuing to work to get people out of the country.
However, he said people should “forget” about trying to get to Kabul airport, due to the numerous dangerous checkpoints that have been installed along the motorways.
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