Boris Johnson calls Cobra meeting as Afghanistan stands on the brink of Taliban takeover

Prime minister Boris Johnson is to recall Parliament from its summer break on Wednesday to discuss the crisis

Boris Johnson is facing calls for a last-ditch intervention to prevent the complete collapse of Afghanistan after foreign troops withdraw after 20 years of military operations (Getty)

Boris Johnson has called a meeting of the government Cobra emergencies committee as Taliban fighters have reached the outskirts of the Afghanistan capital, Kabul.

Downing Street said ministers and senior officials would meet on Sunday afternoon to discuss the worsening situation.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Britain and other western countries have been scrambling to get their remaining nationals out of the country
  • A 600-strong UK force – including Paras from 16 Air Assault Brigade – were understood to be in the capital to assist with the operation
  • It was reported that arrangements were being made for the ambassador, Sir Laurie Bristow, to be flown out after plans for him to remain with a small team in a secure location at the airport were abandoned
  • Officials said they were doing all they could to assist the estimated 2,000 Afghans who had worked with the British during their time in the country to relocate while there was still time
  • The Commons authorities said Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle had agreed to a recall with MPs returning to Westminster on Wednesday while the Lords will also return

What’s been said

“The situation in Afghanistan is deeply shocking and seems to be worsening by the hour.

“The immediate priority now must be to get all British personnel and support staff safely out of Kabul.

“The government has been silent while Afghanistan collapses which, let’s be clear, will have ramifications for us here in the UK.”

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer

Background

It’s understood that the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, has now fled the country as Taliban forces advanced into the capital, Kabul.

The collapse of Jalalabad, near a major border crossing with Pakistan, leaves Afghanistan’s central government in control of just Kabul and six other provincial capitals out of the country’s 34 - causing more than 1,000 civilian casualties in the past month, according to the UN.

Among senior UK parliamentarians there was shock and anger at the speed of the Afghan collapse after the West had invested billions in building up the country’s armed forces.

The Taliban insisted that there would be no reprisals against Afghans who had worked for the government or for foreign countries and that they were seeking a peaceful transfer of power.

A deadline of 11 September - the 20 year anniversary of the attacks on the US - was set by President Joe Biden for US troops to fully withdraw.