Britain said Sunday that seven Afghans have died in the chaos near Kabul airport as the British defence secretary expressed support for extending Washington’s end-of-the-month deadline to permit the evacuation of so many people.
The United States and its allies have been struggling to cope with the thousands of foreign nationals and Afghans trying to flee Afghanistan in the week since the Taliban retook power.
“Our sincere thoughts are with the families of the seven Afghan civilians who have sadly died in crowds in Kabul,” a defence ministry spokesman said without giving the circumstances.
Britain’s Sky News had on Saturday aired footage of at least three dead bodies covered in white tarpaulins outside the airport.
Sky reporter Stuart Ramsay, who was at the airport, said that people at the front of one part of the crowd were being “crushed”, while others were “dehydrated and terrified”.
The defence ministry spokesman said: “Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.”
The ministry said separately that the UK had now evacuated nearly 4,000 people from Afghanistan since August 13.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace issued what could be read as a plea to Washington for more flexibility over US President Joe Biden’s August 31 target date to complete the rescue missions.
“If the US timetable remains, we have no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out,” he wrote in the Mail on Sunday.
“Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer, and they will have our complete support if they do.”
US President Joe Biden has said the deadline could be extended for the airlifts. “I think we can get it done by then, but we’re going to make that judgment as we go,” he said Friday
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is seeking to speak to his US counterpart Secretary of State Antony Blinken to discuss extending the August 31 deadline, according to the Sunday Times.