British troops were saved from almost certain death in the Kabul suicide attack by an 11th-hour decision, commanders revealed last night.
Based on intelligence about a threat from Isis-K fanatics, UK paratroopers were moved back a short distance which meant they avoided last week's airport blast by a matter of feet, while 13 US troops patrolling the same area were among the 182 killed.
Moments after surviving the attack at the Abbey Gate, British soldiers were able to form a protective cordon around the US Marines and rescue injured children.
In his first interview since arriving back in the UK, Brigadier James Martin, the Commanding Officer of 16 Air Assault Brigade, said: 'We were aware there was a credible threat and we had taken steps the previous evening to create a greater standoff between where a suicide bomber might appear and our people and civilians.
'I think that undoubtedly put us in a good position. I also think, ultimately, it saved lives. There is a degree of serendipity about this, that none of our people got hurt, but I mean, we are talking by feet.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
'I imagine for some of our people, that is quite difficult to deal with.'
In his first interview since arriving back in the UK, Brigadier James Martin revealed UK paratroopers were moved back a short distance which meant they avoided last week's airport blast by a matter of feet
British troops 'ran towards explosions' during the suicide bomb attack at Kabul airport (pictured) that killed at least 182 people, a senior Army officer has revealed
Brigadier Martin, one of the most decorated officers in the British Army, was humbled by the response of his soldiers.
'We heard the bang and about three seconds later we felt the sting and that very distinctive smell of CS gas which hit us as the blast had vaporized some of the US stocks of CS,' he said.
'And then very quickly the gates were open, we were bringing in injured women and children. Our soldiers were running towards the explosion to provide first aid, explosive ordinance disposal support to our American brethren and to provide them with security to evacuate their wounded.
'When the bomb went off and shots were fired – they weren't necessarily fired by the enemy – our people ran towards the sound of the gunfire. I am exceptionally proud of how they undertook their duties that day.'
In the days before the attack, US aircraft circling over Kabul intercepted electronic messages about a suicide bomber targeting crowds and Western troops at the airport.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Lieutenant Colonel David Middleton, the Commanding Officer of 2nd Battalion, the Parachute Regiment (2 Para) said: 'We were very close to the explosion.
'We had, based on the intelligence beforehand, moved back to a more contained area.
'So if you looked at where our forces were laid out 24 hours earlier it would have been far more exposed.
'We knew the threat was there. We did our best to mitigate it.'
The troops – some only 18 or 19 – are now being offered counselling to cope with what Lt Col Middleton described as the 'visceral' experience of the explosion and processing evacuees.
'What young soldiers, male, female, different cap badges, different colours, different creeds did, to save lives was really humbling,' he added.
Details of the UK's response to warnings of an attack come after a 'blame game' over whether the blast could have been prevented.
According to reports earlier this week, US commanders wanted to close the Abbey Gate – where thousands of desperate evacuees were queuing – hours before the terrorist struck.
Reports suggested they were persuaded by their British counterparts to keep it open, a move which made US troops more vulnerable.
The claims were denied by Boris Johnson and Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab but put more strain on the UK's relationship with the US.
Prince Charles, Colonel-in-Chief of the Parachute Regiment, has hailed the regiment as an 'outstanding credit to the country', expressing admiration and pride in its effort to lead the evacuation effort in Kabul.
Betrayed by Biden... But I fight on in the valley that's my nation's last hope
From Amrullah Saleh in the Panjshir Valley, Afghanistan
Amrullah Saleh, 48, is the former vice president of Afghanistan, who escaped Kabul as the Taliban advanced to join Ahmad Massoud and the National Resistance Front in the Panjshir Valley.
The remote, 70 mile long valley, bordered by high mountains, is a geographical stronghold and the last province in Afghanistan to hold out against the Taliban. After peace negotiations failed, battle has now been joined with each side claiming territorial gains and heavy casualties in the past 48 hours.
In a courageous and moving dispatch from the frontline, Saleh - whose leader, President Ashraf Ghani, fled Kabul for the UAE - reveals his anger at Afghanistan's betrayal by America but urges the West not to abandon his beloved nation.
Yesterday I attended the burial ceremony of two of the best commanders I ever knew who were killed last night.
The fighting here is heavy now, with casualties on both sides. The Taliban are using American munitions against us and Blackhawk helicopters are being flown in to reinforce their attacks.
I did not speak at the funeral, but others did. And when they asked the hundreds of mourners drawn from the communities of the Panjshir Valley - the last Afghan province resisting the Taliban - if they were prepared to continue fighting, a roar of support erupted.
The people are resolute. They - we - are united in defending our dignity, our land, our history, and our pride against the Taliban whose fighters have been amassing here in recent days.
The snow-capped mountains of this valley, some 90 miles north of the Afghan capital, Kabul, are majestic and there is a long history of successful resistance here.
It beats in the proud heart of every man, every woman, and every child.
Right now our entire focus is on ensuring the survival of this valley as the base against the Taliban who in recent months have over run this nation.
Survival does not necessarily mean defending each and every inch of the territory. It means ensuring that the enemy will never gain control here.
In a courageous and moving dispatch from the frontline, Amrullah Saleh reveals his anger at Afghanistan's betrayal by America but urges the West not to abandon his beloved nation
We know we are not alone. Other Afghans are with us - in the nearby Andarab Valley, in parts of Kapisa Province, and in pockets in Parwan. And we have contacts all over the country, particularly in northern and central Afghanistan.
Many fighters are flocking here to join the National Resistance Front (NRF) - anti-Taliban fighters, former Afghan security forces and ordinary Afghans who want to stop us returning to the rule of the Taliban.
For the Taliban have not won any hearts and minds. They have simply exploited the flawed policy of a fatigued American president — not necessarily the United States itself — and they are being micromanaged by Pakistan's notorious intelligence agency, the ISI.
The Taliban's spokesperson receives directions, literally every hour, from the Pakistani embassy.
It is the Pakistanis who are in charge as effectively a colonial power. But this is not going to last because they and their clients will not be able to erect a functioning economy or create a civil service.
They may have territorial control, but as our history has shown, control of land does not necessarily mean control over the people or stability. And I do not see Taliban having any idea about governance.
The betrayal of Afghanistan by the West is colossal.
The scenes at Kabul airport in recent days represented the humiliation of humanity, an embarrassment for any nation that has been involved in Afghanistan since the Taliban were routed by the US-led Coalition Force in the aftermath of the 9/11 atrocity.
The Americans may boast about evacuating some 123,000 people from the country (of whom 6000 were Americans), but there are 40 million of us.
Now, with the closure of the airport in Kabul, the Afghan exodus is continuing at the other border crossings and it is worse than it was during the Soviet occupation of the 1980s.
This is not only shameful for President Biden, it is shameful for the whole of Western civilisation.
'For 20 years, Western leaders promised not to stand on the Afghan constitution -