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Afghanistan: PM pledges not to abandon UK allies left behind

Boris Johnson has promised not to abandon UK allies left behind in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s rapid takeover of the country.

The prime minister said the UK would do “everything possible” to help Afghans who worked for British forces get out safely.

He told MPs 311 such Afghans eligible for relocation to the UK had not been evacuated in time.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer blamed this on the PM’s “lack of leadership”.

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Sir Keir added it was a “national disgrace” the government does not know precisely how many British nationals are left in Afghanistan.

Updating MPs as they return from their summer recess, Mr Johnson said the government’s obligation towards Afghans who helped the UK would “live on” after the withdrawal of British troops last week.

He said the UK would exert “economic and diplomatic pressure” on the Taliban to provide them with safe routes out of the country.

Also updating MPs, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said he had discussed organising safe passage through Qatar and Pakistan during meetings with their leaders last week.

He also said he had discussed how the UK could help organise flights from Kabul airport, where international flights have been grounded since the withdrawal of US troops at the end of August.

Mr Johnson confirmed that Afghans admitted to the UK under a separate refugee scheme will be allowed to stay indefinitely.

He added that the government would shortly be writing to local authorities with details of funding for accommodation and school places.

Sir Keir said that local councils hoping to host Afghan refugees were still “in the dark” over the financial support they would receive.

A document seen by the BBC last week urged the Treasury to confirm extra funding before councils make offers to house refugees.

It said just under £400m has been allocated so far to help resettle those who had fled the country, but an extra £557m could be needed over the next three years.

‘Lack of planning’

Around 15,000 people eligible to come to the UK were evacuated in the final two weeks before Kabul fell to the Taliban, including 8,000 Afghans who had worked alongside British forces.

But the government has admitted it cannot be precise with how many others were left behind.

The government has pledged to bring 20,000 refugees to the UK in the next five years, including 5,000 in the coming year.

Mr Johnson told MPs that the scheme would include those who “face a particular risk from the Taliban,” such as those working to improve human rights, or because of their “gender, or sexuality or religion”.

Alongside Mr Johnson, Sir Keir praised the efforts of British personnel who took part in the evacuation efforts.

But he said they had been let down by “a lack of planning” on the part of the government, and ministers had been “missing in action”.

He said in his own constituency, Afghans who had helped the UK and were eligible for relocation who applied “weeks ago” weren’t processed quickly enough to make it to the planes.

He added it was a “familiar and desperate story” to many MPs, who had heard similar stories.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said there was “barely an MP” who had not contacted the government on behalf of UK and Afghan nationals “desperate to find safe passage away from the Taliban”.

The prime minister said thousands of the MPs’ emails had been answered, and “every single one” will receive a reply by the end of Monday.

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