Afghanistan: Families of fallen British soldiers criticise government’s handling of Taliban advance

Graham Knight's son Ben died when his helicopter exploded. Credit: PA

The families of British soldiers killed during previous tours of Afghanistan have criticised the hasty withdrawal of US troops from the country and described their sense of betrayal as the Taliban seized control of the capital.

A total of 457 British forces personnel or Ministry of Defence civilians have died since Nato forces entered the country in 2001.

Graham Knight, father of 25-year-old RAF Sergeant Ben Knight who was killed when his Nimrod aircraft exploded in Afghanistan in 2006, spoke of his anger at the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

Sergeant Ben Knight died when his RAF Nimrod aircraft exploded in Afghanistan in 2006. Credit: PA

Mr Knight, 69, said the British government should have moved more quickly to get civilians out of the conflict-ridden country, which has seen a dramatic fall of the Western-backed government to the Taliban. “I think it was all started too late again. It (the evacuation process) should have started about a week ago," he told the PA news agency."We’re not surprised that the Taliban have taken over because as soon as the Americans and the British said they were going to leave, we knew this was going to happen.

"The Taliban made their intent very clear that, as soon as we went out, they would move in."

His comments come as thousands of people packed into Kabul's airport, running alongside aircrafts and pushing onto planes in a last-minute attempt to flee.

Discussing the footage of people desperately climbing on to planes in Afghanistan's capital to escape, Mr Knight added: “I feel very sorry for them, they’re obviously fighting for their lives. Anybody who feels like that is in a desperate situation."

  • Frantic Afghans run alongside and cling onto the side of a US military plane as it begins to take off from Kabul

This video contains distressing images

British troops are now racing against the clock to get remaining UK nationals and their local allies out of Afghanistan after the Taliban captured the capital and the presidential palace on Sunday.

A Taliban fighter sits on a vehicle with a machine gun in front of the main gate leading to the Afghan presidential palace, in Kabul. Credit: AP

Lead elements of 16 Air Assault Brigade were working with US forces to secure Kabul airport to ensure flights can continue as Afghans and foreigners alike scramble to leave.

Around 4,000 British nationals and eligible Afghans are thought to be in the city and in need of evacuation.

Ian Sadler, 71, whose 21-year-old Trooper son Jack died when his Land Rover struck a mine in Afghanistan in 2007, criticised Joe Biden's hasty withdrawal of troops from the country.

“To pull them out so quickly like that… I would have thought it would have been more of a strategic advantage to reduce the British and American influence.

"When the Nato forces were pulled out so suddenly, the Afghan National Army were left without any direction,” he told PA news agency.

“I don’t think any of the British governments – Labour, coalition or Conservative – have handled the situation in Afghanistan particularly well… The level of support given to our soldiers in Afghanistan was trivial."

Territorial Army Trooper Jack Sadler was killed in Afghanistan in 2007 Credit: Ministry of Defence/PA

Following a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergencies committee on Sunday, Boris Johnson said his priority was to get UK nationals and Afghans who had worked with them out of the country “as fast as we can”.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said British and US forces are among those continuing to fly people out of Kabul airport.

But he admitted the UK will be unable to evacuate everyone from Afghanistan who needs to leave, due to the unpredictable nature of the Taliban.