Afghanistan

Afghanistan: Armed Forces Should Be 'Very Proud' Of Airlift Efforts, PM Says

Boris Johnson made an address to troops who have returned from Kabul, at Merville Barracks in Colchester, Essex.

Boris Johnson has congratulated the Armed Forces for their work in the Afghanistan evacuations, saying all involved should be "very, very proud of what they've done". 

The Prime Minister, during a short address to troops who have returned from Afghanistan, said: "Mainly, I want to say what an incredible thing you've just done. There's literally nothing like it, not just in my lifetime, but I don't think this century or for the last 100 years or longer."

Mr Johnson said the operation was "nothing like the Berlin airlift" or other military evacuations, adding: "This wasn't just a military evacuation, this was the biggest-ever humanitarian airlift in the history of this country, and I don't think anybody expected that you would bring back 16,000 people.

"It was an extraordinary feat of endurance, patience, care, thought, planning, and I think you should all be incredibly proud of what you've just done and I know the whole country is incredibly proud of you for what you did."

Mr Johnson also defended his Government's response to the crisis during the visit to Merville Barracks in Colchester, Essex.

Asked why Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab was on holiday despite it being clear Kabul was about to fall, Mr Johnson told reporters: "I think the whole Government has been working continuously to make sure that we did what we could to extract people from Kabul.

Watch: Afghan refugees – how are the military and veterans helping in the UK?

"I think everybody who has taken part – I'm talking about the Armed Forces – in the Kabul airlift, and they've seen some pretty harrowing things and they've been exposed to people in the extremity of anxiety, of fear for their lives, and they've acquitted themselves incredibly well."

Boris Johnson said it had been "clear for many months" that the situation in Afghanistan could change "very fast" but insisted the UK Government's response was not "spur of the moment".

The PM also said there are two tasks for the UK following the withdrawal from Afghanistan.

He added: "The real job now is – two things we have got to do – we have got to make sure that we continue the work with local councils coming forward to help people find somewhere to live, make sure their kids have got somewhere to go to school, make sure they can be properly integrated into the UK economy and society.

"Secondly, we have got to make sure that we level with the Taliban who are the new authorities in Kabul.

"They have got to understand that if they want engagement with the west, with us, our friends, and I know that they do, then the first priority for us is safe passage for those who want to leave."