Afghanistan is “heading towards civil war” and terror group Al Qaeda “will probably come back” as the security situation in the region continues to deteriorate, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said on Friday.
The Cabinet minister was addressing UK media outlets on the government’s decision to send in approximately 600 additional troops to facilitate the safe exit of remaining UK personnel in Afghanistan as the Taliban onslaught gathers momentum.
“I think we are heading towards a civil war,” he told the BBC.
With reference to the US withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan since May, he told Sky News: “I’m absolutely worried that failed states are breeding grounds for those types of people. Of course I am worried, it is why I said I felt this was not the right time or decision to make because, of course, Al Qaeda will probably come back, certainly would like that type of breeding ground.
“That is what we see, failed states around the world lead to instability, lead to a security threat to us and our interests.”
It comes as the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced that the number of staff working at the British Embassy in Kabul has been reduced to a core team focused on providing consular and visa services for those applying for the UK’s relocation scheme.
The Foreign Office Travel Advice is for all British nationals to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible, while commercial travel options remain available. Any British nationals who are still in Afghanistan are encouraged to contact the Embassy in Kabul as soon as possible for assistance.
The MoD said UK troops will provide force protection and logistical support for the relocation of British nationals where required and assist with the acceleration of the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP).
This, the ministry said, will help to make sure interpreters and other Afghan staff who risked their lives working alongside UK forces in Afghanistan can relocate to the UK as soon as possible.
“I have authorised the deployment of additional military personnel to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, assist British nationals to leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff who risked their lives serving alongside us,” said Wallace.
“The security of British nationals, British military personnel and former Afghan staff is our first priority. We must do everything we can to ensure their safety,” he added.
The additional military support announced on Thursday will arrive in Kabul over the coming days.
Sir Laurie Bristow, the UK’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, will continue to lead a small team in Afghanistan which will relocate within Kabul to a more secure location. This team will focus on helping remaining UK nationals to leave the country, and the continued roll out of the ARAP and working with international partners to support the Afghan government, the MoD said.