World

What will happen to those left in Kabul?

26 August 2021

3:43 PM

26 August 2021

3:43 PM

The Afghan evacuation is feared to be entering its final hours, and with it a new desperation is building among people trying to get out of the country and those helping them. On the ground, troops are warning that Kabul airport could be overrun by people who are ineligible to leave but desperate to do so nonetheless. Embassy workers are trying to process visas, ministers are being bombarded with requests to look at cases where vulnerable Afghans have been overlooked or cannot make it to the airport safely.

Boris Johnson chose yesterday to focus on the importance of securing ‘safe passage’ for Afghans who still want to leave after 31 August, along with a rather impotent-sounding commitment from the G7 leaders to ensure that the Taliban sticks to its obligations under human rights law. But there remains huge confusion over what could happen in the coming days.


Firstly, there are many people who should be eligible to leave because they helped the Afghan government or western forces but who haven’t applied for visas because they had planned to stay and help build Afghanistan, assuming that the Ghani government would stay in place. There are also many people at the airport who say they have the correct documents but are facing delays either in being processed or getting onto flights. They have been warned by friends and family outside that the Taliban are waiting and that to come back home would be to face death. But they do not know whether they will be successful in getting through the airport and onto a flight. No one really knows until they are in the air.

Then there are those who tried to go to the airport because they have the correct documents but who were foiled by the Taliban. I have heard from people who waited until their children couldn’t stand and have stopped speaking due to the trauma of seeing others killed in front of them. Some people were beaten by the Taliban.

Inevitably not everyone who is at the airport at the moment will make it onto a flight before British and then American troops start to disappear. So far there has been little indication of what protection, if any, there might be for the crowds left. They are already desperate, and fearful of what will happen from 31 August. Ministers have been talking a lot about the reality that not everyone who should leave will be able to. But there has been little discussion of the preparations for what happens afterwards.

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