BRITAIN’S evacuation mission in Afghanistan now only has “hours not weeks” left, the Defence Secretary warned today.
Ben Wallace said UK soldiers would be pulled back when the Americans leave Kabul on August 31.
But Washington is unlikely to go for an extension – which has not been agreed by the Taliban.
With a heavy heart Mr Wallace said today: “I don’t think there is any likelihood of staying on after the United States.
“If their timetable extends even by a day or two, that will give us a day or two more to evacuate people.
“Because we are really down to hours now, not weeks, and we have to make sure we exploit every minute to get people out.”
Britain has made clear it also cannot continue evacuating its nationals and Afghans without the say-so of the Taliban.
Mr Wallace admitted the militants “have a vote” on any extension and that it’s “in their interest to keep the country open”.
It’s hoped a further 6,000 people will be evacuated this week.
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LAST FLIGHT OUT OF KABUL
Ministers have been frank that some will be left behind – but that evacuations will continue from neighbouring countries in the Middle East.
The Government is not revealing when the final flight will be to avoid a crush at Kabul airport.
Officials are doing security checks after terrorists were trying to exploit the chaos to board planes bound for Britain.
Mr Wallace: “If there’s a security concern… suddenly you lose hours and if you lose hours you lose people.”
Soldiers helping with the rescue mission in the Afghan capital are also on constant watch for Islamist threats.
Armed forces minister James Heappey said: “There is a very real threat posed by Islamic State and I just think one of the most remarkable things about what our troops are doing is they know that there is a real threat of a suicide bomber, or some other sorts of threats or attack.
“That means that with one hand they have to have their finger on the trigger. And on the other hand they’re holding babies.
“These are 18 and 19-year-old young men and women from across the United Kingdom, who were dealing with the most extraordinary circumstances.”
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