Afghanistan: Last UK troops and diplomats arrive back in UK from Kabul, ending 20-year campaign

The last UK military and diplomatic personnel from Afghanistan arrived in the UK at around 8.20am on Sunday morning

The last UK military and diplomatic personnel to leave Kabul airport have landed back in the UK, marking the end of the 20-year campaign in Afghanistan.

Operation Pitting, the largest evacuation mission since the Second World War, ended on Saturday night as the final troops left.

The flight touched down at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire at around 8.20am on Sunday.

Ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Laurie Bristow, who had been processing those fleeing the country at the airport until the last moment, was among those on the flight.

The Ministry of Defence said the last civilian evacuation flight had left on Saturday.

British troops seen boarding an A400M aircraft on Saturday in Kabul, in one of the last UK evacuation flights from Kabul on Saturday

More than 15,000 people have been airlifted to safety in just over a fortnight, as more than 1,000 troops, diplomats, and officials were sent to Afghanistan to rescue British nationals and Afghan allies after the Taliban took over the country's capital.

But hundreds of Afghans who helped the UK during the war have been left behind and face the dangers of Taliban rule.

Musa Popal and Mohammed Niazi are believed to be the two British citizens who died in the Kabul airport bomb attack, ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan reports

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said now was “a moment to reflect on everything we have sacrificed and everything we have achieved in the last two decades”.

In a video uploaded to Twitter on Sunday morning, Mr Johnson praised the more than 1,000 military personnel, diplomats and officials who took part in the operation in Afghanistan.

He said: “UK troops and officials have worked around the clock to a remorseless deadline in harrowing conditions.

“They have expended all the patience and care and thought they possess to help people in fear for their lives.

“They’ve seen at first-hand barbaric terrorist attacks on the queues of people they were trying to comfort, as well as on our American friends.

“They didn’t flinch. They kept calm. They got on with the job."

The prime minister praised the "colossal exertions" of UK troops and said their departure from Afghanistan was “the culmination of a mission unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes”.

US intelligence is warning of an 'imminent attack' at Kabul airport in the next few days, US Correspondent Emma Murphy says

Meanwhile, US intelligence is warning of an imminent attack at Kabul airport in the next few days, President Joe Biden has said in a statement.

It comes after the US military conducted an airstrike on Saturday morning against members of the Islamic State group's Afghanistan affiliate - ISIS-K.

It is believed the targeted members were involved in planning the terrorist attack at Kabul airport on Thursday that left more than 170 people dead, including two British nationals and the child of another British national.

The US drone strike killed two "high profile ISIS targets" and one was wounded, US Army Major General William "Hank" Taylor said in a Pentagon press conference on Saturday. He said there were no civilian casualties.

Earlier on Saturday, British ambassador to Afghanistan Sir Laurie Bristow said it was “time to close this phase” of the evacuation effort.

In a video posted on Twitter, Sir Laurie – who has remained in Afghanistan processing those who needed to leave the country – said: “The team here have been working until the very last moment to evacuate British nationals, Afghans and others at risk.

“We haven’t forgotten the people who still need to leave.

"We’ll continue to do everything we can to help them. Nor have we forgotten the brave, decent people of Afghanistan. They deserve to live in peace and security," Sir Laurie added.

Earlier, General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said Operation Pitting – the effort to evacuate UK nationals and eligible Afghans from Kabul airport – had “gone as well as it could do in the circumstances”.

But he spoke of the “heartbreaking” judgment calls military personnel had been forced to make.

"We haven’t been able to bring everybody out and that has been heartbreaking, and there have been some very challenging judgments that have had to be made on the ground,” he said.

A flight carrying 248 military personnel arrived at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire on Saturday

“And I think that, you know, people like me, who have had a very, very long association with this country, we are forever receiving messages and texts from our Afghan friends that are very distressing, so we’re all living this in the most painful way.”

But Tom Tugendhat, a Tory MP who fought in Afghanistan, said he was disappointed with the end of the evacuation effort.

The former army officer and now chairman of the Commons Foreign Affairs Select Committee told BBC Breakfast: “I’m extremely sad about this and I very much hope that it might go beyond the August deadline but we found out a few days ago that it wasn’t, so I was expecting it.

“It still leaves me extremely sad that so many of my friends have been left behind.

Members of the UK Armed Forces helping in the evacuation of entitled personnel from Kabul airport. Credit: PA

“What I am working on, and you’ll understand I’m afraid that I’m not going to give you complete details about this, we’re looking at different networks to get people into second countries, and then connecting them to high commissions and ambassadors of the United Kingdom, to get them to the UK safely.”

Questioned over whether the UK could have done better when withdrawing personnel from Afghanistan, Mr Tugendhat said: “In the last week, probably not, but this has been a sprint finish after a not exactly sprint start.

“There’s been many of us giving pressure to improve the processing of people who we think we have a duty of care to over the months and years.

“There are going to be questions to be asked to the Foreign Secretary about the processing in the UK in recent weeks that we’re going to have to see what the answers are.”

Members of the British armed forces 16 Air Assault Brigade disembark a RAF Voyager aircraft. Credit: PA

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace previously admitted there were between 800 and 1,100 Afghans eligible under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme who would be left behind, while around 100 and 150 UK nationals will remain in Afghanistan, although Mr Wallace said some of those were staying willingly.

But a number of MPs have said that based on the correspondence they had received asking for help, they thought this was an underestimation.

On Friday, Boris Johnson said he felt "a great sense of regret" that not everybody eligible will be evacuated out of Afghanistan before the August 31 withdrawal deadline set by the Americans.