A further 200 UK troops are to be sent to Kabul to evacuate British citizens and local allies from Afghanistan as Dominic Raab said he would not rule out sanctions if the Taliban did not honour its commitments over human rights.
The Ministry of Defence confirmed to the PA news agency that more armed services personnel would be sent to Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control of Kabul.
It comes as Boris Johnson, in a phone call with French president Emmanuel Macron, outlined his intention to host a virtual meeting of G7 leaders on Afghanistan in the coming days to co-ordinate and international response.
There have been chaotic scenes at Kabul airport amid a desperate struggle to get UK nationals and selected Afghans out of the country.
The decision to fly in more armed forces personnel brings the total number of troops sent to the capital to urgently deal with the crisis to about 800.
It comes as Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said that whether sanctions were sought against Afghanistan would “depend on the behaviour of the Taliban”.
Following a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee on Monday afternoon, he told broadcasters: “As I said, we’ll use every means at our disposal.
“We need to work with our partners, we need to broaden the caucus of countries that are willing to exercise positive influence, to rein in the worst excesses we saw in the past of the Taliban, and we need to consolidate and try and stabilise the gains – which are considerable – that we’ve made with so much blood, sweat, tears and loss of life, over 20 years, and that’s what we’re committed to doing.”
British troops are racing against the clock to get people out of Afghanistan following the dramatic fall of the western-backed government amid a rapid advance across the country by the Taliban.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who served in the Scots Guards, appeared to choke up as he spoke of his regret that “some people won’t get back” during morning interviews.
However, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said there was an “obligation” to those in Afghanistan who had helped the UK effort.
Former Grenadier Guard Julian Perreira, who has been campaigning for the safe exit of Afghan interpreters, said he feared following Wallace’s statement that those who had helped British armed forces could be “left behind” despite facing possible execution.
An anonymous Afghan interpreter interviewed on BBC Radio 4’s PM said there are around 50 Afghans who had assisted troops waiting for flights to the UK while a further 200 employees – such as drivers and security guards – are waiting to find out about their eligibility to be relocated.
Speaking from a hideout, he implored ministers to resolve the situation within “hours”, adding that otherwise: “One day they will find us and they will kill us.”
The Government has come under sustained pressure over the situation in Afghanistan, with Conservative MPs criticising the handling of the crisis.
Families of those who died fighting in the central Asian country have also condemned the UK and US over the withdrawal.
Graham Knight, father of 25-year-old RAF Sergeant Ben Knight, who was killed when his Nimrod aircraft exploded in Afghanistan in 2006, said: “As for whether people’s lives were lost through a war that wasn’t winnable, I think they were.”
However, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, a former national security adviser, appeared to offer a defence of the Allied withdrawal, arguing “no-one” was prepared for the “speed” of the Taliban advance and claimed the Afghan population was “either resigned or welcomed” their new rulers.
“It is very striking if you compare it to the Taliban takeover in 1996, this has happened much more quickly, it has happened actually more peacefully and it is more complete than it was then,” Sir Mark told the BBC.
“The Afghan army didn’t really fight in any serious way anywhere in the country and the general population were either resigned or welcomed the Taliban’s arrival.
“So they now control almost all of the country – not absolutely everywhere, there are pockets of resistance in Panjshir and elsewhere – whereas in the 1990s, even at the maximum control the Taliban had, they only controlled about 75-80% of the country.”
Campaigners fear the Taliban will bring in a brutal regime, with women losing many of the rights they have enjoyed over the past two decades since western troops took over the country in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
Nobel Laureate Malala Yousafzai said she does not want Afghan women and girls to live through what she experienced under Taliban rule in Pakistan.
In a clip due to be aired on BBC Newsnight, Ms Yousafzai – who was shot in the head by the Taliban in 2012 after she enraged them with her campaign for girls’ education – said: “Taliban gunmen would be standing there telling women that they cannot work, they cannot go shopping, girls cannot go to school.
“I do not want to see Afghan … girls and women living through those times.
“We cannot accept this. We cannot live in a world where a girl is denied her right to education.