A British charity worker said she felt "immensely lucky" to have escaped Afghanistan on an evacuation flight but said it is tragic that some of her Afghan friends are still stuck in the country.
Kitty Chevallier, a 24-year-old charity worker from Basingstoke, Hampshire, shared photographs of people packed on to an RAF cargo plane as she flew out of Kabul on a UK evacuation flight on Monday morning.
Ms Chevallier had been working in Kabul since September last year with Afghanaid, a UK charity that supports deprived families and women in Afghanistan.
She recalled her journey to Kabul Airport: “As we drove there at 4am, the runways were crowded with hundreds of Afghan families hoping to get out somehow.
“I’m very aware how immensely lucky I was to get helped out of the country.
“One of the strangest moments was getting on the plane, not knowing when we’d be able to come back or what the city would look and feel like when we did.”
Ms Chevallier praised the soldiers who helped her evacuate, describing them as “patient, helpful and reassuring”.
She said it feels “bizarre” to be out of Afghanistan, but it continues to be "nerve-wracking" for other British friends and colleagues still stranded in the country.
Ms Chevallier has been helping her friends and said most of them will be leaving on a UN flight on Thursday.
But she is saddened that many of her Afghan friends remain in the Taliban-controlled nation.
She said: "The real tragedy is being in touch with Afghan colleagues and friends, for whom the chances of leaving the country are far, far smaller, and who have so much more to lose.
“The eligibility criteria for the resettlement schemes currently available are really tight… but we are providing whatever support and advocacy we can – we’re going to keep trying.”
There are fears that those who worked with western authorities or organisations could be at risk of reprisals from the Taliban, although the group has promised it would not seek revenge against them.
Ms Chevallier said: “The messages we’ve been hearing from the Taliban, including in the provinces where we run projects, are encouraging and makes it sound as though there will not be any danger from them.
“But meanwhile, I’ve heard multiple examples of aid workers receiving threatening messages, even death threats – so they are obviously very scared.”
Ms Chevallier called on the UK to “increase, not cut” aid for Afghanistan and said the criteria for people coming to the UK from Afghanistan should be expanded “to include aid workers and civil society activists, especially women”.
“We must not forget Afghanistan… the news stories will probably dry up before long, but our support must not,” she said.
Jack, an Afghan-born British citizen whose name has been changed to protect his family still in Afghanistan, said he was "extremely thankful" to return to the UK on a British military plane.
The 27-year-old from Birmingham said: “It was strange and frightening… I was sad departing my native country the way I had to.
“(We) waited in a building around 12 hours before being transported to the airport… it was difficult like waiting, security, hunger.
“(Most) of those fleeing had to sit on the plane’s rough floor but overall it was worth it – I am extremely thankful.
“Family and friends are (still) there. It was tough not being able to say goodbye.”
The Taliban, an Islamic militant group, ruled Afghanistan until 2001, after the US and its allies (including the UK) invaded the country for harbouring Al-Qaeda training camps in the wake of 9/11.
But the situation began to get worse in April 2021 when President Joe Biden announced the final withdrawal of US troops from the country.
The insurgents have been rapidly seizing Afghanistan territory in the last week and a half, with the nation's capital Kabul captured on Sunday.
The UK government is focusing on evacuating British nationals and Afghan allies. British armed forces are aiming to get around 6,000 people out of Afghanistan via Kabul.
Boris Johnson's government has promised that up to 5,000 Afghans can find refuge in the UK this year, with up to 20,000 in the longer term.