No more British flights purely for civilian evacuees will leave Kabul airport, but flights for British military personnel and a small number of Afghan evacuees will continue, a Defence Ministry spokesperson said on Saturday.
Broadcaster Sky News said the last British flight purely for civilians had left Kabul airport overnight.
British defence minister Ben Wallace said on Friday that the country was entering the final hours of its evacuation and would process only people who were already inside Kabul airport.
Britain’s defence ministry said late on Friday that it had evacuated more than 14,500 Afghan and British nationals in the two weeks since the Taliban took control of the country.
Wallace said on Friday that he estimated between 800 and 1,100 Afghans who had worked with Britain and were eligible to leave the country would not make it through.
Britain was a key ally of Washington from the start of a U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 that toppled the then-ruling Taliban.
Late on Friday Britain said it would assist a private charter flight evacuating dogs and cats belonging to an animal rescue charity run by a British former soldier, Paul Farthing, whose plight attracted widespread public attention in Britain.
Meanwhile, staff involved in efforts to evacuate as many people from Kabul as possible after the Taliban seized power did their best in extremely difficult conditions, NATO’s senior civilian representative to Afghanistan said on Saturday.
“We have a clean conscience … because with what we had, we did our best under the circumstances,” Italian diplomat Stefano Pontecorvo told reporters on arriving in Rome.
Pontecorvo, who left Afghanistan on Friday when the last Italian flight departed, said those involved in the evacuation crossed the line between possible and impossible to get everybody they could out of the country.
“We have left a few behind which we are not abandoning but we will strive our best to take back home,” he told reporters.
Italian military planes have taken more than 4,800 Afghans out of the country as of Aug. 27, including more than 1,400 children, the defense ministry has said.
Foreign minister Luigi Di Maio praised Italian diplomats and military officials for their contribution to the evacuations of the civilians.
“We have evacuated more Afghan nationals than any other European Union country,” he said.
Photo: Taliban stand guard as they block the road to Hamid Karzai Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. EPA-EFE/STRINGER