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26 August 2021updated 31 Aug 2021 11:42am

What will happen to the people left behind in Afghanistan?

A largely untold horror is unfolding at the Afghan-Pakistan border as people gather to flee but with little or no Western military support.

By Ailbhe Rea

Efforts to evacuate as many people as possible from Afghanistan ahead of the 31 August withdrawal deadline are in their last, desperate stages this morning. The final British airlift is due to take place within hours, as Western governments urge their citizens to stay away from Kabul airport due to the threat of an imminent terrorist attack by Isis-K, a local offshoot of Islamic State. 

[See also: The Afghanistan debacle has exposed the hollowness of Boris Johnson’s foreign policy]

Things are going to change a lot in the next 24 hours, as our knowledge grows of the number of people left behind and of the regime they are now forced to live under. We are also likely to see a shift in focus from Kabul (depending on the unfolding terror risk) to the largely untold horror that is taking place at the Pakistan border, where throngs of people have gathered hoping to flee Afghanistan, but with little or no Western military support.

As the border becomes the only route out of the country, ​​​​​​it seems likely that the dire situation will spill into our collective consciousness in the next few hours or days. But we know very little about what is going on outside of Kabul precisely because of the danger and difficulty of news coverage or military presence beyond the capital. 

[See also: Britain’s soldier-MPs are forceful campaigners – but politics is not war by other means]

That was one of the problems for Western countries all along and was also one of the great challenges for the previous Afghan government in areas beyond the capital city. It encapsulates why the weeks to come will be so difficult: given the huge risk to journalists, it is possible that as the situation worsens in Afghanistan, the less the world will really know about what is going on.

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