The last British troops in Afghanistan are to leave ‘within days’ after American forces brought forward their withdrawal date to mark US Independence Day.
More than 200 Black Watch soldiers will fly home, ending the UK’s 20-year deployment which started after 9/11.
Before leaving they will take part in a flag-lowering ceremony alongside US forces to honour the 456 British troops killed there since the campaign began.
Thousands of British personnel have also been wounded in battle against the Taliban. More than 38,000 Afghan civilians have been killed and 70,000 injured.
The UK’s ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow is expected to attend the event in Kabul. He is staying on in Afghanistan after the troops have left.
The last British troops in Afghanistan are to leave ‘within days’ after American forces brought forward their withdrawal date to mark US Independence Day. Pictured: M Company, 42 Commando Royal Marines, during operation against Taliban forces in Barikyu, Nothern Helmand Province of Afghanistan
Their departure follows the pull-out of Italian and German troops this week. Other Nato countries have been bringing their forces home over the past month.
US President Joe Biden had set the 20th anniversary of the Twin Towers attack on September 11 as the deadline to bring all American troops home but military officials said yesterday the date had been brought forward to this weekend.
The withdrawal of the Black Watch – the 3rd Battalion, the Royal Regiment of Scotland (3 Scots) – comes after intelligence reports suggested the Taliban could depose Afghanistan’s elected government within months.
Commenting on the loss of districts around the country to the Taliban, America’s top general there, Austin Miller, said: ‘A civil war is certainly a path that can be visualised if this continues… and that should be of concern to the world.’
The Taliban’s resurgence, which has included attacks against civilians, is a matter of grave danger for hundreds of interpreters who helped British forces but are still stuck in Afghanistan.
The last Union flag of Great Britain flying above the skies of Helmand Province, Afghanistan, is lowered by Captain Matthew Clark and Warrant Officer 1 John Lilley to be returned to the UK
The Daily Mail’s award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign has given hope to civilian workers facing reprisals. They want to start new lives in the UK but face an anxious wait while the British Embassy processes their applications.
Father-of-four Abdul, one of those waiting to see if he can move to the UK, said: ‘It looks like the British are leaving us to face this uncertainty alone. We thought they’d be here until September but the timetable has changed again.
‘Life is very dangerous now. I live in a district controlled by the Taliban and I’ve had to pull my children out of the local school because of the threat to them. There are insurgent checkpoints everywhere. It is a very frightening time.’
Another interpreter Sam, 34, whose brother was murdered on the doorstep of his home by the Taliban, said: ‘The militants are stronger than they have been for years and they still want revenge on us for working for the British.
‘It seems our friends and protectors have decided it is too dangerous for them to stay here. The danger to us is also higher while our cases are being processed.’
Thousands of British personnel have also been wounded in battle against the Taliban. More than 38,000 Afghan civilians have been killed and 70,000 injured
The first of what the interpreters call ‘Freedom Flights’ flew 35 families to the UK last week. Up to 3,500 Afghans will be offered the chance to relocate.
Some 500 Turkish troops at Kabul airport will assume security responsibilities when British and American troops leave. Some US Special Forces personnel will remain to support them.
Boris Johnson is expected to announce security plans for the British Embassy and the UK ambassador next week.
After details of the earlier US departure emerged yesterday, defence sources indicated British troops would be pulling out ‘within days’. For security reasons, no precise details are being released.
The Ministry of Defence said last night: ‘The UK is involved in ongoing discussions with US and international allies regarding the future of our support to Afghanistan.’
Last night, the former head of the British Army Lord Dannatt insisted British soldiers upheld their reputation in battle against the Taliban after ‘errors of near biblical proportion’ had handed the militants every advantage.
He said: ‘I am very saddened by what appears to be happening in Afghanistan as it looks like a rapid implosion in security could occur.
‘I would never say it was not worth it but the present situation makes it so much harder to argue that British troops did not die in vain. Sadly their tactical endeavours and their sacrifices did not achieve strategic stability.’
He added: ‘The campaign has been very expensive for us in blood and treasure.’