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Not the time to recognise Taliban as rulers of Afghanistan, UK defence secretary says, bracing for ‘significant’ migrant flows

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UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said London is yet to decide on whether to recognise Taliban militants as legitimate rulers of Afghanistan, while the government is focused on evacuations and is braced for a rise in migration. 

Wallace was asked by Sky News’ Kay Burley if he acknowledges that the Taliban has won the war.

“I don’t know if that’s a win. I acknowledge that the Taliban are in control of the country,” the secretary said. “I mean, you don’t have to be a political scientist to spot that’s where we’re at.”

The official said it was not yet the time to decide whether London should recognise the Taliban as the legitimate Afghan government. “I think there is a lot more to come before those decisions are made,” Wallace explained. “The proof of the pudding will be obvious in their actions rather than their rhetoric.”

Wallace said that the UK must work to “protect our people” on the ground amid the chaotic evacuations from Kabul, which was effectively overrun by the militants on Sunday. UK authorities evacuated 370 British nationals and Afghan support staff over the weekend, Wallace said, adding that 782 more Afghans will be airlifted within the next 24 to 36 hours.

The scenes of jubilant Taliban fighters entering the Afghan capital were reminiscent of when militants from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) captured large swathes of Iraq and Syria in 2014. The takeover by IS triggered a massive wave of refugees from the Middle East to Turkey and Europe.

“I suspect we will see significant migrant flows around the world,” Wallace told Sky News.

“The threat for our stability from migrant flows, organised crime, smuggling, terrorism is very, very important,” he said, declining to specify how many migrants the UK should expect.

“There will be significant migrant flows around the world.”

The Taliban, which was toppled during a US-led invasion in 2001, captured 26 out of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals in just 10 days before reaching Kabul.

President Ashraf Ghani and several other high-ranking officials from the UN-backed government fled the country, as the militants declared victory in the war with Western forces that spanned nearly two decades.

The Taliban offensive intensified after President Joe Biden announced that US troops would leave the country by August 31.

The US initially invaded Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks with the goal of fighting Al-Qaeda and other jihadist groups. The Taliban was quickly ejected from major cities, but the fighting has never stopped despite the presence of US soldiers and a peace deal signed in February 2020.

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