UK Defence Secretary fights back tears over Kabul evacuation chaos

Western leaders are grappling with a worsening crisis in Afghanistan as the US sends yet more troops to help the increasingly chaotic evacuation of Kabul and an emotional British Defence Secretary admits the UK is unlikely to get all its Afghan allies out safely.

US President Joe Biden is set to address his country on Monday afternoon (Tuesday morning AEST) amid growing criticism of the planned withdrawal of American forces, which turned deadly at Kabul's airport on Monday as thousands tried to flee the country.

Some two-dozen human rights experts working with the United Nations say countries must not "stand on the sidelines" now that the Taliban — a UN-listed terror organisation — have seized control of Afghanistan.

READ MORE: Seven killed in Kabul airport evacuation chaos, US officials say

Britain and other European nations say they will not recognise any government formed by the Taliban and want the West to work together on a common stance.

But UK and European leaders have so far not spoken forcefully on Afghanistan, and their hands are tied in many ways: They have little leverage over the Taliban, and they are deeply reluctant to publicly criticise the withdrawal decision by the United States, their powerful NATO ally, or comment on their own role in the failed intervention.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace, who served as a captain in the Scots Guard before entering politics in the late 1990s, has in recent days voiced regret at the sudden seizure of Afghanistan by Taliban militants.

He has openly worried about the potential return of al-Qaeda and instability in Afghanistan and criticised the deal then-US President Donald Trump signed with the Taliban in February 2020 that limited direct military action against the insurgents.

Speaking via webcam on LBC Radio on Monday, Wallace's voice started shaking when he began describing his regret at Britain's likely inability to get all eligible Afghans back to the UK in coming days.

READ MORE: 'Confused, hungry, hopeless': Desperation at Kabul airport as thousands flee amid Taliban sweep

READ MORE: Father of Aussie soldier killed in Afghanistan speak out about Taliban takeover

"It is a really deep part of regret for me that some people won't get back," he said.

"Some people won't get back and we will have to do our best in third countries to process those people."

When asked why the issue was so personal to him, his voice started to quiver some more.

"Because I'm a soldier," he said.

"Because it's sad and the West has done what it's done and we have to do our very best to get people out and stand by our obligations and 20 years of sacrifice — is what it is."

Mr Wallace last week authorised the deployment of another 600 British troops to Afghanistan to help in the evacuation of the 4000 or so UK nationals and Afghan allies who have helped over the past 20 years.

READ MORE: ADF troops sent to Afghanistan to evacuate hundreds of citizens

More than 250 Australian Defence Force troops are being sent to Afghanistan to help with the evacuations of more than 130 Australian citizens and more than 200 former embassy guards and interpreters.

The US on Monday announced another 1000 troops, on top of thousands already deployed to assist evacuation efforts.

Beyond recriminations over the Taliban's faster-than-expected recapture of the country and moves to repatriate foreign nationals, questions are increasingly being asked about what's next for Afghans remaining in the country and those expected to flee as refugees.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate end to violence and urged the international community to unite to ensure that the human rights of all people, especially women and girls, were respected.

READ MORE: What life will be like under the Taliban in Afghanistan

United Nations' High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi noted that most of the refugee displacement in recent weeks had been within Afghanistan, but appealed to other countries to keep their borders open and take in any refugees who could flee in the future.

He said half a million people had been internally displaced this year, the "vast majority" of which in the last few weeks alone but that the agencies recent interactions with the Taliban had been "relatively positive".

Hungary has already refused to take Afghan refugees, while criticising the US withdrawal from the country.

Human rights experts working with the United Nations cited unspecified reports from 16 provinces in Afghanistan that have shown women and girls have faced rights violations including the requirement to wear full-body burqas, forced marriage, ban on employment and limits to freedom of movement and health care.

They called on the UN Security Council — which was holding a special session on Afghanistan on Monday — to be "unequivocal in action."

"The people of Afghanistan deserve better than to endure the silence and by-standing of the member states of the United Nations at this perilous moment," they wrote.

"We cannot stand idly by as the lives of the Afghan people are treated with contempt, derision, and weariness."

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