Troops from C Company 1st Battalion the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment (1 PWRR) in Afghanistan on Operation Herrick 15
Around 600 UK troops are to be sent to Afghanistan to assist British nationals to leave, the government has announced.
It comes as the Taliban has seized the cities of Ghazni and Herat – taking control of 11 provincial capitals in less than a week.
Military personnel will provide protection and help relocate UK nationals, Afghan staff and interpreters.
On Friday the Foreign Office advised all British nationals to leave.
It is estimated that around 4,000 British citizens are still in the country.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the security of British nationals, military personnel and former Afghan staff was the government’s first priority and that it “must do everything we can to ensure their safety”.
Mr Wallace said deployment of troops, who will be arriving in the coming days, was a “pre-planned phase” and was to “enable the next step of leaving”.
But the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said the additional deployment was “in light of the increasing violence and rapidly deteriorating security environment in the country”.
The UK’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Laurie Bristow, will continue to lead a small team in Afghanistan which will relocate within Kabul to a more secure location, the MoD said.
It was always likely, this close to the end of the Nato mission to Afghanistan, that events would appear to accelerate. We are, after all, getting out.
But as they made their careful arrangements, planners did not necessarily anticipate the speed of the Taliban’s advance, or the weakness of an Afghan military the US and its allies spent almost two decades building up.
What they wanted was an orderly withdrawal, with the Afghan government able to hold its own.
What we’re facing, instead, is something altogether more chaotic.
Perverse though it might sound, sending troops in to get people out was always going to be part of the plan.
So too was the relocation of the British embassy to a more secure (and as yet undisclosed) location.
But the withdrawal of an unspecified number of embassy personnel, with the Americans making a similar move, is clearly being driven by events on the ground.
With US officials warning that the Afghan government could fall in as little as 30 days (a worst case scenario, it has to be noted), these feel like the crisis plans everyone hoped they wouldn’t have to use.