Boris Johnson says time remaining for Kabul evacuations is ‘quite short’ amid warnings airport is under the threat of a terror attack

The “overwhelming majority” of people eligible for evacuation from Kabul airport have now left Afghanistan, Boris Johnson said, as he promised the UK government will do “everything we can” to get those remaining out of the country.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday morning, the prime minister said “around 15,000” people have already been evacuated by British troops but conceded that time is running out.

“In the time we have left, which may be – as I’m sure everybody can appreciate – quite short, we’ll do everything we can to get everybody else,” he said.

The PM added that the airlift phase is “coming to the end in any event”.

UK and US officials have warned of the increasing risk of a terror attack on the airport, where thousands await evacuation.

Live updates on the situation in Afghanistan as the evacuation continues

Earlier, Armed Forces Minister James Heappey told Sky News a “very lethal attack” could happen in a matter of hours.

Mr Heappey called on those queuing outside Hamid Karzai International Airport to move to safety amid concerns over an affiliate of the so-called Islamic State in Afghanistan, known as Isis-K.

The kind of attacks they are known for conducting in particular are suicide bombings, such as a car bomb or an individual blowing themselves up.

The imminent threat has strained the airlift operation to get as many people out of Afghanistan as possible following its takeover by the Taliban.

It is believed many Afghan interpreters and British citizens still need to be evacuated from the country, but the PM told reporters that the “lion’s share” of those eligible for assistance had now been removed from the country.

He did however note that “there will be people who still need help” and said the UK’s commitment to helping those wishing to flee will not end on 31 August – the deadline for British troops to depart in advance of the exit of US forces.

Amid concerns the Taliban could block off exit routes for citizens, the PM warned the group they must allow people to leave Afghanistan to benefit from engagement from the rest of the world.

“What we’re hoping, and this is the key point that the G7 agreed, is that the Taliban understand that if they want to engage with development aid, they want to unlock those billions of funds, they want to have a diplomatic, political relationship with the outside world, then the safe passage for those who want to come out is the key precondition,” the PM said.

Earlier on Thursday, Mr Heappey told Sky News eight RAF flights had managed to lift 1,988 people from Kabul within the past 24 hours.

The prime minister also said the UK government must be “transparent about the risks” posed by Isis-K.

“I can’t go into the details, clearly. But we have to be mindful of the security of our personnel, but also of the Afghan people who are trying to get out,” he said while on a visit to the Permanent Joint Headquarters in north London where he met military personnel co-ordinating the evacuation effort.

On Wednesday night, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) warned of an “ongoing and high threat of terrorist attack” at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

And it is reported that Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs during a briefing call on the same day that eligible Afghans hoping to seek asylum in the UK would be better off now heading for Afghanistan’s border and trying to make their way to a third country.

Mr Heappey made it very clear that the “window of opportunity to evacuate people is closing”, but would not say when the last flight will depart.

“Well, we still have 11 flights programmed to leave in the next 24 hours,” the defence minister told Sky News.

The PM also did not give a specific timeframe for when the RAF evacuation flights would come to an end.

The end of the evacuation operation is rapidly approaching after US President Joe Biden rejected calls from Mr Johnson and other allies to delay his 31 August withdrawal date for the remaining US troops, who are providing security at Kabul airport.

A team of more than 1,000 British troops and diplomats running the UK’s evacuation mission on the ground will need a period of time to pack up their equipment and depart ahead of the final US exit date.

It means that evacuation flights for Afghan civilians desperate to flee the country after the Taliban takeover will have to stop at least a number of days before then.

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Meanwhile, shadow minister for Asia Stephen Kinnock told Sky News up to 2,000 interpreters and others could be left behind which is “utterly unforgivable”.

“Serious questions do need to be asked once we have got through this phase of getting as many people out as we can,” he said.

“We understand up to 2,000 interpreters and others who helped our armed forces could be left behind. It is utterly unforgivable.”

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