The Taliban are in control of Afghanistan and British and NATO forces will not be returning to fight the insurgents, Britain's defence minister said today, Reuters reports.
"I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country," Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News. "I mean, you don't have to be a political scientist to spot that's where we're at."
Asked if Britain and NATO would return to Afghanistan, Wallace said: "That's not on the cards that we're going to go back"
Wallace said the military side of Kabul airport was secure and that Britain was doing everything it could to evacuate British citizens and Afghans with links to Britain."Our target is … about 1,200 to 1,500 exit a day in the capacity of our aeroplanes, and we'll keep that flow," he said.
Britain has relocated its embassy to Kabul airport from the city. Asked what he would feel to see the Taliban flag flying over the former British embassy building in Kabul, Wallace said: "It's not the embassy anymore, we have left that location … so it's now just a building."
"Symbolically, it's not what any of us wanted."
Wallace said it was not yet the right time to decide on whether to recognise the Taliban as the Afghan government.
"I think there is a lot more to come before those decisions are made," he said. "The proof of the pudding will be obviously in their actions rather than their rhetoric.
"Taliban forces entered Kabul yesterday and took control of the Presidential Palace after President Ashraf Ghani left the country in order to avoid bloodshed.
Ghani left in order to avoid clashes with the Taliban that would endanger millions of Kabul residents, he said in a Facebook post – his first comments since leaving the country. There have been conflicting reports as to where Ghani headed with sources says he was refused entry to Tajikistan and was forced to redirect to Oman, others said he had headed to Uzbekistan.
NATO said it would maintain its diplomatic presence in Kabul and help keep the city's airport running, the military alliance said yesterday."NATO is helping keep Kabul airport open to facilitate and coordinate evacuations," NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Twitter.
Spoke with #UK PM @BorisJohnson and the Foreign Ministers of our Allies #Canada, #Denmark and #Netherlands on the situation in #Afghanistan. #NATO is helping keep Kabul airport open to facilitate and coordinate evacuations.
— Jens Stoltenberg (@jensstoltenberg) August 15, 2021