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UK tells its nationals to leave Afghanistan immediately

August 7, 2021

The British foreign ministry warned of a high risk of terror attacks and "a worsening security situation" as the Taliban continued their offensive across Afghanistan.

Afghan security forces inspect the house of the country's acting defense minister after an an attempt to kill him on Wednesday
The Islamist Taliban have gone on the offensive since the US and its Western allies began to withdraw their forcesImage: Rahmat Gul/AP Photo/picture alliance

The British government has told all UK nationals to leave Afghanistan immediately as fighting intensifies between Taliban militants and Afghan security forces.

The announcement came just hours after the Taliban ambushed and killed the director of Afghanistan's government media center in Kabul on Friday.

Britain’s Foreign Office warned that  "terrorists are very likely to try to carry out attacks" amid a drawdown of international troops stationed there.

Workers unload a container at a junkyard near the Bagram Air Base in Bagram
The US has evacuated most of its troops and hardware from its main airbase in Bagram.Image: Adek Berry/Getty Images/AFP

"Specific methods of attack are evolving and increasing in sophistication," it said. "There is a high threat of kidnapping throughout the country."

The UK's diplomatic service, which regularly updates travel advisories for countries all over the world, said Britons would not be able to rely on the UK government for an emergency evacuation.

"You are advised to leave now by commercial means because of the worsening security situation," it said in the statement.

Second provincial capital 'fallen completely'

The Taliban has made rapid advances across Afghanistan in recent months, wrestling back control of key border posts, swathes of countryside and key towns and cities.

The hardline Islamist insurgents captured the provincial capital of Zaranj, in the southern Nimroz province, on Friday afternoon.

On Saturday, Afghan officials confirmed the loss of another provincial capital, the city of Sheberghan in Jawzjan province.

"The (government) forces and officials have retreated to the airport," the region's deputy governor Qader Malia told the AFP news agency.

"The city has unfortunately fallen completely," AFP quoted him as saying.

Sheberghan is the former stronghold of infamous warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, a former army paratrooper who returned to Afghanistan on Wednesday following medical treatment in Turkey.

Will any British nationals stay in Afghanistan?

A small number of UK military troops is expected to stay in Afghanistan temporarily, but most British soldiers have already left.

Britain’s last combat troops left Afghanistan in October 2014. Just 750 stayed on as part of a NATO mission to train Afghan forces.

General Nick Carter, the head of the British armed forces, said last month that the situation in Afghanistan was "pretty grim" and warned there was a danger of "state collapse."

But Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied Britain was "walking away," pointing to the British government's pledge of millions of pounds in funding for education and military aid.

NATO leaders discuss Afghanistan in Brussels with US President Joe Biden
Britain is among the NATO countries that has pulled most of its troops out of AfghanistanImage: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/AP/picture alliance

A total of 150,000 British soldiers have served in Afghanistan since a US-led coalition invaded in 2001 in what was then dubbed "a war on terror."

As many as 457 UK service personnel lost their lives over the past two decades while fighting militant groups. 

Who else has pulled out of Afghanistan?

Most other European troops have already wound down their presence in the central Asian nation; Germany pulled its remaining soldiers out at the start of July.

Their withdrawal has been brought about by the decision of US President Joe Biden to end all US operations on 31 August.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has criticized Washington's withdrawal strategy.

"The reason for our current situation is that the decision was taken abruptly," he told parliament on Monday, adding he had warned the Biden administration the withdrawal would have "consequences."

In an exclusive interview with DW last month, George W. Bush, the former US president who launched the offensive in Afghanistan, said the pullout of Western forces was "a mistake."

Afghanistan troop withdrawal a mistake, says George W. Bush

jf/dj (AP, AFP, Reuters)