Afghan translator feels abandoned by West to Taliban as evacuation deadline nears

Credit: AP/ITV News

A translator who worked for the UK and US military forces in Afghanistan has told ITV News he feels abandoned by the West as the Taliban continue to rule the country and time is running out to complete evacuations within the next few days.

The man, who ITV News are not naming due to safety concerns, said Western forces "should've tried to stay longer, they should've tried harder to get the civilians out".

It is understood nearly 2,000 Afghan interpreters and other staff who worked for Britain need to be airlifted out of Kabul as the evacuation operation enters its final days.

When will British and US forces need to start pulling out?

On top of that an unidentified number of “special cases” may be eligible for evacuation, such as LGBTQ advocates, judges and human rights activists.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told ITV News the UK would use "every hour and day remaining" to evacuate British passport holders and local allies, but would not confirm whether flights extracting civilians would end several days before the official deadline.

The Taliban and the US have agreed the final date for a withdrawal of Western forces must be August 31, after President Joe Biden rejected calls for an extension from Boris Johnson and other G7 allies.

On Wednesday night, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said 1,500 US citizens still remain in Afghanistan awaiting evacuation, with 4,500 evacuated since the Taliban reached Kabul on August 14.

Mr Raab admitted the UK would "ideally have preferred a longer window" for evacuations but said he understands the reality, with the Taliban threatening "consequences" if any country overstays its welcome.

It means the clock is quickly running down on the UK's evacuation operation at Kabul airport, with British troops expected to have to leave ahead of their American counterparts.

Huge crowds of Afghans wait in a sewage canal asking to enter the airport:

Pressed for a specific timeline, Mr Raab said "it's going to be days not weeks", as admitted the final days before the deadline will be used to remove "military personnel and equipment".

He said the best route for people wanting to escape after August 31 would be for them to flee to neighbouring countries, through Afghanistan's land borders, so they can be processed there for resettling in the UK.

One resolution agreed between all G7 leaders at their emergency meeting on Tuesday was that they must exert as much pressure on the Taliban as possible for the group to allow fleeing Afghans safe passage out of the country.

ITV Security Editor Rohit Kachroo reports on the latest diplomatic moves to keep evacuations going past August 31

Asked just how that would be achieved, Mr Raab said it's "not going to be easy, there are huge challenges" but a collective effort between Western countries and Afghanistan's neighbours would force the Taliban to play ball.

He said the Taliban must cooperate with the demands of the international community if it wants to be accepted by it and receive foreign support.

Meanwhile, Poland has ended its evacuations from Afghanistan, becoming one of the first Western countries to halt operations helping people flee the Taliban takeover as a full American withdrawal looms.

Thousands of people are being extracted from Afghanistan every day by Western forces. Credit: AP

European allies pressed for more time but lost the argument, and as a practical matter they may be forced to end their evacuations a few days before the last American troops leave.

The inability of the G7, particularly the UK, to force a change of direction from the US on the evacuation deadline raised questions about how much influence other countries have over America.

But Mr Raab denied to ITV News that the Special Relationship between the UK and US was over.

The foreign secretary came under fire earlier this week after failing to cut short his holiday in the days running up to the Taliban's recapture of Afghanistan.

He told ITV News he does regret not coming home sooner but said he never considered handing in his resignation.

"With the benefit of hindsight of course I would have come back earlier," he said.

Asked if he'd considered his position, he said: "No I didn't and I'm very gratified by the support I've had."

It was also reported that help for Afghan interpreters who had supported British troops was delayed because Mr Raab unable to make a phone call due to being on holiday.

According to the Daily Mail, Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office officials suggested Mr Raab call Afghan foreign minister Hanif Atmar on Friday – two days before the Taliban marched on Kabul – only for him to be “unavailable” while on holiday.