UK Prime minister Boris Johnson has spoken of his regret at the manner of withdrawal from Afghanistan, telling the public: “We would not have wished to leave in this way”.
In a statement released after the evacuation of the last UK personnel, the prime minister suggested his hand had been forced by the US – as he promised to “engage with the Taliban” on the basis of their actions.
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Mr Johnson dangled the possibility of diplomatic recognition and unfrozen bank accounts for Afghanistan’s new de facto rulers – if they respected the rights of women and girls, swore off harbouring international terror groups, and gave safe passage to refugees fleeing the country.
And the prime minister spoke of his respect for those who had carried out the operation and said the airlift had been “the culmination of a mission unlike anything we’ve seen in our lifetimes”.
Explaining who had been evacuated, Mr Johnson said the thousands of Afghans who had been given safe passage had “proved their loyalty to this country beyond doubt”.
“UK troops and officials have worked around the clock to a remorseless deadline in harrowing conditions,” he said.
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“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.
“It’s thanks to their colossal exertions that this country has now processed, checked, vetted and airlifted more than 15,000 people to safety in less than two weeks.”
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