U.K. Defense Chief Fights Tears Over 'Regret' Not All Afghan Allies Will Be Evacuated

The U.K's defense chief fought back tears over his "regret" that not all Afghan allies to the U.K. will be evacuated from Afghanistan amid the Taliban's takeover of the country.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace appeared on LBC Radio via webcam Monday after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan's capital Kabul. Last week, he approved sending 600 British troops to support evacuating around 4,000 U.K. citizens and Afghan allies who helped during the past 20 years, the Associated Press reported.

"It is a really deep part of regret for me that some people won't get back," Wallace said as his voice started shaking. "Some people won't get back and we will have to do our best in third countries to process those people."

When asked why he felt the situation so personally, Wallace said, "because I'm a soldier."

"Because it's sad and the West has done what it's done and we have to do our very best to get people out and stand by our obligations and 20 years of sacrifice — is what it is."

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace breaks down admitting "some people won't get back" from Afghanistan and "it's sad that the West has done what's it's done."
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— LBC (@LBC) August 16, 2021

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace fought back tears over "regret" that not all Afghan allies to the U.K. will be evacuated from Afghanistan amid the Taliban's takeover. In this photo, Wallace is hosted by US Defense Secretary Mark Esper hosts for an honor cordon at the Pentagon's River Entrance on March 5, 2020 in Washington, DC. Olivier Douliery/AFP via Getty Images

Wallace, who served as a captain in the Scots Guard before entering politics in the late 1990s, has in recent days voiced regret at the sudden seizure of Afghanistan by Taliban militants. He has openly worried about the potential return of al- Qaida and instability in Afghanistan and criticized the deal then-U.S. President Donald Trump signed with the Taliban in February 2020 that limited direct military action against the insurgents.

But it was during his morning media round on Monday that Wallace briefly offered a glimpse into the strain he has been under.

The first flight of British nationals and embassy staff arrived at RAF Brize Norton, around 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of London, on Sunday night.

Without explicitly criticizing the decision of U.S. President Joe Biden to announce the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Afghanistan on Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the attacks on New York and Washington D.C., Wallace's words suggested that he thinks a different path could have been trodden.

British forces played a pivotal role in Afghanistan over the past two decades and suffered 457 casualties, mainly in the southern province of Helmand. In addition to their combat role, they helped train Afghan army troops and supported a wide range of projects to improve education, particularly for girls, health care, economic growth and local governance.

Britain's Defense Secretary Ben Wallace
In this Tuesday, July 20, 2021 file photo, Britain's Defense Secretary Ben Wallace arrives at the prime minister's official residence on his way to meet Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga in Tokyo. Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP