Senior Whitehall officials have subsequently confirmed that soldiers with 2 and 3 Para – part of the 900 troops sent to help handle security for the gruelling evacuation -are venturing no further than Hotel Baron, the multi-national processing centre for civilians hoping to get a flight home.
The Special Forces mission, carried out by Paras from the Special Forces Support Group, MI6, the CIA, elite US troops from the Joint Special Operations Command and French special forces, was coordinated by a US Navy electronic warfare team and aided by US drones.
It was overseen by US Navy Rear Admiral Peter Vasely, a former SEAL and America’s most senior officer in Kabul.
British forces are said to have used abandoned vehicles found at the British embassy to carry out their part of the mission, which took place in the dead of night when there are fewer Taliban checkpoints.
More than 1,000 British soldiers, diplomats and Home Office personnel have been working around the clock since last weekend to help secure safe passage for UK citizens and Afghans who are eligible to return to Britain.
According to Whitehall sources around 3,000 UK citizens and eligible Afghans have already been flown to safety with as many as eight military transport aircraft taking off every day.
At home, the operation has been supported by a 24-hour cohort of 250 call handlers and bureaucrats who have fielded thousands of desperate calls.
Last night UK ambassador Laurie Bristow, who has remained at Kabul airport helping to process applications, said: “The scale of this effort is enormous and is without a doubt the biggest international challenge I have worked on as a diplomat.
“Lives are at stake. We will continue to work tirelessly to get British nationals, Afghan staff and others at risk out of the country as quickly as possible as we also support Afghanistan’s long-term future.”
President Biden has publicly stated that he may extend the August 31 deadline to ensure all eligible people can be evacuated.
Whitehall sources confirmed that, with the US contributing 6,000 personnel to the operation at the airport, there would be no scope for British troops to stay behind after the US withdraws..
But last night highly placed sources warned that increasing Taliban impatience might see the entire operation ended as early as tomorrow.,
It’s all very well talking about an August 31 deadline, but the real concern is whether the Taliban will even allow us to continue next week,“ said one.
“We’re noticing increasing impatience.”
Candidates for the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) would be encouraged to apply even after the last troops have left.
Last night armed forces minister James Heappey told veterans that they should be proud of what they achieved in Afghanistan.
Writing for the Sunday Express the former infantry officer, who served two tours in the country, acknowledged “anger and frustration” over how events have unfolded in Afghanistan.
But he said: “We gave a war-torn nation a taste of freedom. We gave them space for an education that can never be taken away. Who knows whether our legacy now survives but we must never stop being proud of what we did and the difference we made.”