Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed that the U.K. government will “shift Heaven and Earth” to get everyone out of Afghanistan in a “second phase” after acknowledging that many U.K. citizens and Afghan allies would be left behind.
On Friday, Johnson said the deaths of two U.K. nationals and the child of a U.K. national in Thursday's suicide bombing at Abbey Gate outside Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul "underline" the urgency of evacuating everyone out of Afghanistan who qualifies.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense said Saturday that the final flight of Afghan civilians had departed Kabul, and all remaining flights will be carrying British soldiers and diplomats.
"The team here have been working until the very last moment to evacuate British nationals, Afghans and others at risk," said Sir. Laurie Bristow, the British Ambassador to Afghanistan, according to The Telegraph.
U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace confirmed Friday that 150 British nationals and an estimated 1,100 Afghan interpreters and others who worked alongside British forces would be left behind. He expressed his “deep regret” that not everyone would get out.
In a message to those left behind, Johnson said: "What I would say to them is that we will shift Heaven and Earth to help them get out, and we will do whatever we can in the second phase.
"But the crucial thing is that the Taliban authorities, the new government, however it’s composed, have got to understand that if they want to have engagement with the West, if they want to have a relationship with us, then safe passage for those is absolutely paramount,” he added.
"We've never seen anything like it in our lifetimes and, of course, as we come down to the final hours of the operation there will sadly be people who haven't got through, people who might qualify,” the prime minister said.
Johnson also praised the bravery of the U.S. military and the “colossal nature” of the task on their shoulders and allied forces.
In an interview with Times Radio, Lord Hammond, the former foreign and defense secretary, said the U.K. had failed in its mission: “We’ve failed in our own mission which is to keep those people safe, because at short notice it’s become clear we can no longer do that in Afghanistan and we have to do it by extracting them from Afghanistan and we haven’t been able to complete that task.”
As of Saturday, U.S. and coalition forces have evacuated over 117,000 people, mostly Afghans, 13,000 of which are expected to be granted entry into the U.K.
At the Pentagon press briefing on Friday, U.S. Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor clarified that there was only one suicide bomber in the Kabul airport attack, not two as was previously believed.
“I can confirm for you that we do not believe that there was a second explosion at or near the Baron Hotel, that it was one suicide bomber. We are not sure how that report was provided incorrectly. It’s not any surprise that the confusion of very dynamic events like this can cause information sometimes to be misreported or garbled,” Taylor said.