Speaking to Sky News on Friday, Ben Wallace explained that “the threat is obviously going to grow the closer we get to leaving” Afghanistan, as “certain groups such as ISIS will want to stake a claim that they have driven out the U.S. or the UK.”
As the UK enters its final stages of the evacuation mission, efforts will now be placed on airlifting British nationals and those who have undergone the clearing process and are awaiting departure.
In a statement, the defence minister said some people would be left behind in Afghanistan and that “it is with deep regret that not everyone has been able to be evacuated during this process.”
Medical staff bring an injured man to a hospital in an ambulance after two powerful explosions, which killed at least six people, outside the airport in Kabul on August 26, 2021.
Wallace said the explosion at the Baron Hotel had not hastened the UK’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, and that the closure of a processing centre at the site had happened on schedule.
Wallace’s remarks come after a double-strike was executed at the hotel and Kabul airport on Thursday that claimed 85 lives, amongst those fatalities were 13 US soldiers. An Islamic State Khorasan (IS-K) suicide bomber detonated explosives at the gates of Hamid Karzai International Airport, while another blast went off outside the nearby Baron Hotel.
General Frank McKenzie, the head of the US Central Command, also anticipated subsequent attacks, including rockets or car bombings, on US troops. Officials were said to be “doing everything we can to be prepared” on Thursday.
Just hours before the blasts rocked Kabul airport, the British armed forces minister, James Heappey, warned of an “imminent”, “lethal” attack by Islamist militants.
The UK has so far evacuated over 13,700 UK nationals and Afghans from the war-torn country.
Militants planning ‘imminent, lethal attack’ on Kabul airport warns UK minister
Speaking to BBC on Thursday, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey said that there was “very, very credible” intelligence that militants, notably those from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), were planning a “highly lethal attack” on Kabul airport.
When asked on Sky News whether an attack was possible in the next few hours, Heappey simply responded “yes”. He told the BBC that intelligence of a possible IS suicide attack had become “much firmer.”
The minister said that this was the reason why the Foreign Office had changed its travel advice on Wednesday night. The British government now instructs people not to come to Kabul airport, instead “they should move to a safe place and await further instructions,”Heappey noted.
The minister said he understood the reasoning of those desperate to leave the Taliban’s regime, but insisted the government had to share its intelligence on the threat to people’s safety at Hamid Karzai International Airport. He added that Western nations remained reliant on the Taliban for security outside the airport.
On Wednesday, RT International correspondent Murad Gazdiev and the RT Arabic crew witnessed and filmed Taliban gunmen firing their weapons in the air at Kabul airport in an attempt to ward off those desperate to flee. The Taliban has said it is no longer in favour of letting Afghans leave the country.