Afghanistan ‘feels betrayed’ by UK withdrawal says Stewart
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General Sir Nick Carter, the Chief of the Defence Staff, revealed “we are seeing women being brutalised”, executions in the street and forced marriages to Taliban fighters as the insurgents take a stranglehold of the country. He admitted Al-Qaeda terrorists are fighting alongside Taliban militants, with thousands of innocent civilians fleeing brutality and misery across the country. General Carter also said around 600 British troops have been deployed to Afghanistan to help up to 4,000 British embassy personnel, Afghan translators and “other personnel that might be at risk”, such as security guards, return to Britain by the end of this month.
The British embassy in Kabul will also be moved from the edge of the Green Zone in the Afghan capital to a “more safe” location as the Taliban insurgency intensifies.
There will also be far fewer British staff in Kabul, defence chiefs revealed last night.
Defence chiefs insist the staff and translators leaving Afghanistan will leave on commercial airliners.
But plans have been drawn up to use military planes if services were suspended or the airport came under attack.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace MP said: “I have authorised the deployment of additional military personnel to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, assist British nationals to leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff who risked their lives serving alongside us.
“The security of British nationals, British military personnel and former Afghan staff is our first priority. We must do everything we can to ensure their safety.”
Many in Afghanistan now consider it a matter of “when, not if” Kabul will fall to Taliban militants as fighters seized control of a key city just over an hour away.
The conflict in Afghanistan has put civilians at risk (Image: Getty)
The Taliban claimed they had “conquered” the second and third largest cities in the war-torn country yesterday, as some community leaders waved the fighters through in a bid to limit bloodshed.
Militants have executed Afghan Security Force fighters despite them surrendering and tens of thousands of people have fled their homes as the Taliban swept across the country.
General Sir Nick Carter said the country was already facing a “humanitarian tragedy”.
He said: “I think we have already got a humanitarian tragedy. The question now is whether it gets worse or not.
Gen Carter, the Chief of the Defence Staff, said it was a “fair assessment” that fighters affiliated to Al-Qaeda were among the Taliban insurgents.
“If we end up with a scenario where the state fractures, and you end up essentially with a security vacuum, then there are absolutely ideal conditions for international terrorism and extremism to prosper yet again,” he said.
Gen Carter said they were seeing many of the atrocities on the battlefield which they had been associated with in the past.
“We are seeing atrocities being committed, we are seeing war crimes being committed, we are seeing women being brutalised, we are seeing forced marriages – all the sorts of things that the Taliban were notorious for in the past,” he said.
The Taliban have tightened their grip on the approaches to Kabul, taking control of a key city on the main road south as the threat to several other major cities and towns escalated.
The speed of their offensive raises questions about how long the Afghan government can maintain control of the slivers of the country it has left.
The loss of Ghazni tightens the grip of a resurgent Taliban estimated to now hold some two-thirds of the nation, and thousands of people have fled their homes.
The latest US military intelligence assessment suggests Kabul could come under insurgent pressure within 30 days and that, if current trends hold, the Taliban could gain full control of the country within a few months.
The Taliban also captured a police headquarters in a provincial capital in southern Afghanistan teetering toward being lost to the insurgents as suspected US airstrikes pounded the area, an official said.
A Taliban flag is seen on a plinth in the main city square at Pul-e-Khumri (Image: Getty)
Fighting raged in Lashkar Gah, one of Afghanistan’s largest cities in the Taliban heartland of Helmand province, where surrounded government forces hoped to hold on to the capital after the militants’ week-long blitz in which they have already seized nine others around the country.
An Afghan official in Ghazni revealed yesterday: “The local governor and police commander made a deal with Taliban and joined the Taliban. Heads of security and intelligence are still fighting with them in the city’s outskirts.
“It is very dangerous for Kabul and we raised this concern several times. We even told Kabul our suspicions about the governor’s behaviour.”
The Afghan government has offered the Taliban a share in power so long as the rising violence in the country comes to a halt.
American negotiators are also trying to secure assurances from the Taliban that they will not attack the U.S. Embassy in Kabul if the extremist group overruns the capital.
The effort, led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief American envoy in talks with the Taliban, seeks to stave off an evacuation of the embassy as the fighters rapidly seize cities across Afghanistan.
Mr. Khalilzad is hoping to convince Taliban leaders that the embassy must remain open, and secure, if the group hopes to receive American financial aid and other assistance as part of a future Afghan government.