The top-level Cobra meeting on the afternoon of Aug. 13 comes less than a day after the announcement that 600 UK troops will be sent to Afghanistan to oversee what is effectively an evacuation of British nationals.
In recent weeks, Taliban forces have overrun government forces in many cities in Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of allied troops, last night taking control of the nation’s second-largest city, Kandahar.
Cobra meetings—derived from the location in Cabinet Office Briefing Room A—are the mechanism for the government to shape its response to major events and emergencies.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he feared multinational terror network al Qaida, the group behind atrocities such as the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Centre in New York, would “probably come back” as Afghanistan de-stabilises once again.
Wallace announced last night that some 600 British troops are being sent to help secure the evacuation of British nationals, and Afghans who have helped the British in their operations and are now at risk of Taliban reprisals.
“The security of British nationals, British military personnel, and former Afghan staff is our first priority,” said Defence Minister Ben Wallace in a statement on Aug. 13.
He said they are set to arrive in the coming days and that they will also support the remaining diplomatic presence in the capital city of Kabul.
The UK diplomatic presence in the capital is being whittled down to a skeleton staff who will handle only administration relating to what is essentially an evacuation.
The announcement came as Afghanistan’s second-biggest city Kandahar, a key economic hub, fell to the Taliban.
A spokesman for the Taliban said on Friday they had captured three other cities, including the capital of Helmand province.
They now control most of northern Afghanistan and about a third of the country’s regional capitals.
The United States has announced it will send 3,000 troops to assist with the evacuation of Americans.
According to a U.S. intelligence assessment this week, the Taliban could isolate Kabul within 30 days and take it over in 90.
General Sir Nick Carter, the head of the British armed forces, warned that a dangerous “security vacuum” risks opening up and that the country could once again become a breeding ground for international terrorism.
Official advice last week told all British nationals to leave as soon as possible while there are still commercial travel options available.
PA and Reuters contributed to this report