Afghanistan: Evacuation focus out of Kabul turns to diplomats and service personnel

ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner reports on the final hours of evacuation out of Afghanistan - and hears from those left behind

The UK mission to carry out any more evacuations from Afghanistan is now "extremely reduced," the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

Officials say the focus will now turn to getting diplomats and service personnel out of the country.

On Friday, the prime minister said he felt "a deep sense of regret" that not all those eligible to be evacuated would be.

It comes amid desperate scenes outside Kabul airport, where people are gathered still trying to get a plane out of the country.

On Thursday more than 100 people were killed in a ISIS-K suicide bomb attack after the blast hit at one of the airport gates.

Boris Johnson: 'I obviously feel a great sense of regret that we aren’t able to get everybody out in this first phase'

The MoD said on Friday night that 14,543 people had now been extracted from Kabul since August 13, a mix of Afghan and British nationals.

Some 8,000 of those were Afghans and their families under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme, which applies to those who helped the UK and are at risk of persecution by the Taliban.

But Operation Pitting – the name for the evacuation effort – is drawing to a close.

Already the Baron Hotel facility, which was being used to process those leaving the country by British officials, has closed.

A father and daughter about to board an evacuation flight in Kabul, Afghanistan. Credit: ITV News/Sean Swan

The MoD said this would allow a focus on evacuating the British nationals and others who have already been processed and are at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

But the department said "the UK’s ability to process further cases is now extremely reduced and additional numbers will be limited", and no-one else would now be called forward.

Evacuating all those already processed will now free up space on military aircraft to bring diplomats and military personnel home.

At least 100 people were killed in the blast at Kabul Airport on Thursday. Credit: PA

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace earlier declined to give a timeline for the exit of British forces as they processed the approximately 1,000 further evacuees already in the airport.

Mr Wallace confirmed, however, that it would come before the Americans withdrawal - with President Biden having set the departure deadline for Tuesday 31 August.

He said there were between 800 and 1,100 Afghans eligible under the Arap scheme who would be left behind, while around 100 and 150 UK nationals will be left in Afghanistan, although Mr Wallace said some of those were staying willingly.