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UK says may conduct fresh airstrikes in Afghanistan

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the August 26 twin suicide bombs, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops, at Kabul airport on August 27, 2021. (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)
A Taliban fighter stands guard at the site of the August 26 twin suicide bombs, which killed scores of people including 13 US troops, at Kabul airport on August 27, 2021 [WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images]

The UK retains "the right to exercise self-defense" after withdrawing from Afghanistan, the British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Tuesday, Anadolu Agency reported.

Raab was speaking to British news channel ITV after British Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston told the Daily Telegraph newspaper that the UK could launch airstrikes against 'ISIS-K', the branch of the Daesh terrorist group in Afghanistan.

"Ultimately what this boils down to is that we've got to be able to play a global role in the global coalition to defeat Daesh, whether it's strikes, or whether it's moving troops or equipment into a particular country, at scale and at speed," Sir Mike said.

"If there's an opportunity for us to contribute I am in no doubt that we will be ready to — that will be anywhere where violent extremism raises its head, and is a direct or indirect threat to the UK and our allies.

"Afghanistan is probably one of the most inaccessible parts of the world, and we're able to operate there."

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Raab also pushed back against leaked US claims that it was the UK's evacuation efforts that helped lead to a bomb attack outside the airport in Afghanistan's capital Kabul, in which over 170 people died including 13 US service members.

Politico obtained leaked documents from the Pentagon in which it was reported that US Rear Admiral Peter Vasely, the commander of US forces in Afghanistan, wanted to close a route to the airport known as Abbey Gate, but that it was left open to allow British evacuees through.

Speaking to Sky News, Raab said: "We co-ordinated very closely with the US, in particular around the ISIS-K threat which we anticipated, although tragically were not able to prevent.

"It is certainly right to say we got our civilians out of the processing centre by Abbey Gate, but it is just not true to suggest that, other than securing our civilians inside the airport, we were pushing to leave the gate open."

Raab added that he had an "excellent working relationship" with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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