He added: “But we haven’t forgotten the people who still need to leave. We’ll continue to do everything we can to help them.”
Some British troops have already departed, and a British military transport plane carrying armed forces members landed at an airbase in southern England on Saturday.
Britain was at Washington’s side from the start of a U.S. led invasion of Afghanistan that overthrew the then-ruling Taliban in punishment for harbouring the al Qaeda militants behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. More than 450 British armed forces personnel died during two decades of deployment in the country.
British defence minister, Ben Wallace, said on Friday that he estimated between 800 and 1,100 Afghans who had worked with Britain and were eligible to leave the country would not make it through.
Carter, the head of Britain’s armed forces, told the BBC on Saturday that the total would be in the “high hundreds”.
Many Afghans unable to leave judged it was too dangerous to travel to Kabul airport, Carter said.
He said the number of Afghans who were eligible to come to the UK but remained in Afghanistan was in the “high hundreds”.
He suggested some would not have wanted to take the risk of travelling to the airport – or been unable to – rather than it being down to “processing” issues.
But he added: “We are forever receiving messages and texts from our Afghan friends that are very distressing. So we’re all living this in the most painful way.”
He said those of them who hadn’t been able to leave via evacuation flights but were able to get out another way would “always be welcome in Britain”.
“People like me … we are forever receiving messages and texts from our Afghan friends that are very distressing. We’re living this in the most painful way,” he added.
Additional reporting from BBC and Reuters