The UK government is having talks with the Taliban in Qatar in a bid to secure “safe passage” out of Afghanistan for British nationals and Afghans who have worked with the UK, Downing Street has confirmed.
“The prime minister’s special representative for Afghan transition, Simon Gass, has travelled to Doha and is meeting with senior Taliban representatives to underline the importance of safe passage out of Afghanistan for British nationals, and those Afghans who have worked with us over the past 20 years,” a Number 10 spokesman said late Tuesday.
The UK evacuated more than 15,000 people from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, including 8,000 vulnerable Afghans.
But Defence Secretary Ben Wallace estimated that up to 1,100 eligible Afghans could not be evacuated before the withdrawal of all NATO forces earlier this week.
Some UK nationals have also been left behind. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said on Tuesday that their numbers are in the “low hundreds.”
Downing Street said that it is increasing staff in countries neighbouring Afghanistan in order to help evacuate the people left behind.
“We are beefing up the number of staff in neighbouring countries, Foreign Office and other staff, to support that,” said the prime minister’s official spokesman.
The Foreign, Commonwealth, and Development Office (FCDO) announced that it is deploying 15 crisis response specialists to Pakistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan.
The officials are expected to arrive within the next 48 hours to assist British diplomats in their work to assist people to escape Afghanistan over land borders and reach the UK.
Raab said that although the UK evacuated over 15,000 people from Afghanistan over the past fortnight, the government is aware that “not everyone who wanted to leave and were eligible for UK support could.”
“We will stand by them, and we are working with partners in neighbouring countries to support onward travel to the UK,” he said.
The government has launched Operation Warm Welcome, which is designed to help Afghans rebuild their lives in the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK owes “an immense debt” to those who worked with the UK military in Afghanistan. “I am determined that we give them and their families the support they need to rebuild their lives here in the UK,” he said.
On Wednesday, the Home Office announced that Afghans who worked with the British government and military will be granted immediate “indefinite leave to remain,” or permanent residency, in the UK.
PA contributed to this report.