Hostage Fears For Those Left Behind as Last UK Evacuation Flights Leave Kabul

Officials have warned that the U.K. could end up facing one of its worst hostage crises of all time after confirmation it will not be able to safely evacuate all those who are eligible from Afghanistan.

General Sir Nick Carter, the head of the British armed forces, said civilian evacuation will end on Saturday, August 28, ahead of an agreement with the Taliban to withdraw all troops from Kabul by August 31.

On Friday, Britain's defense secretary Ben Wallace admitted that between 800 and 1,100 eligible Afghans and around 100 to 150 Britons may not be evacuated in time.

Among those who will not be safely flown out of Kabul airport in time include Afghan interpreters who have assisted with the military and their families.

Speaking to BBC's Radio 4 Programme, Sir Nick said that it is "heartbreaking" that the U.K. evacuation operation is ending without everyone eligible being safely taken out.

"It's gone as well as it could do in the circumstances... but 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.

"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."

Sir Nick said the number of Afghans who were eligible to come to the U.K. will remain behind may be in the "high hundreds."

Speaking to Sky News, Tom Tugendhat, Conservative MP and the chair of the U.K. parliament's foreign affairs committee, said that the fallout from the Taliban retaking Kabul following a 20-year war could result in the biggest hostage crisis the U.K. has ever seen.

"Over 3000 entitled people were said to be in Afghanistan at the beginning of the process. I don't know how many it is now, but we'll be asking about that," Tugendhat said.

"We'll be looking to see what that means for getting British citizens out, what that means for getting entitled people out, and protecting those people who, quite rightly, are literally in fear of their lives now."

Tugendhat added that the situation in Kabul is "what defeat looks like" as the Taliban regain control of the country.

"Defeat means you don't control the situation anymore. Defeat means you don't have a voice. In the debate defeat means you don't get a say. We have just been defeated," Tugendhat said.

"We have no influence over Kabul anymore. We have no influence over the behavior of the Taliban except by asking them nicely and luring them with aid to help people who they'll be quite happy to kill. So frankly, what influence that is, I'm not very convinced."

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Charlie Herbert, a former British Army major-general, said it is "naive" to think that the Afghan interpreters will be spared by the Taliban, adding he is feeling angry at this "entirely self-inflicted catastrophe."

Herbert said: "The sense of betrayal, and the abandonment of particular those who served alongside us, that not just be interpreters, but of being left behind, but also the local staff, not all of those who fought alongside us.

"This didn't need to be the catastrophe it is now. It is simply unforgivable. That we're leaving any interpreters behind...the idea that the Taliban are just going to forgive those that sided with the British military against them is naive."

A similar concern has also been expressed by Florida congressman Mike Waltz ahead of the U.S's planned withdrawal from Kabul on August 31.

Speaking to Fox News's Sean Hannity, Rep. Waltz said that people should refer to U.S. citizens still in Afghanistan not as Americans behind enemy lines but "what they are, which is Taliban hostages" who they are going to have to "smuggle" out of the country.

kabul evacuations
Members of the British armed forces 16 Air Assault Brigade walk to the air terminal after disembarking a Royal Airforce Voyager aircraft at Brize Norton, Oxfordshire on August 28, 2021, as the troops return from assisting with the evacuation of people from Kabul airport in Afghanistan. The U.K. is winding up its operation to airlift civilians ahead of the August 31 deadline for US troop withdrawal as Taliban forces prepare to take over the airport. ALASTAIR GRANT/POOL/AFP/Getty Images