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Afghanistan: G-7 fails to get US to extend evac deadline

August 24, 2021

At an emergency G-7 summit, US allies pushed Washington to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond next Tuesday in order to facilitate evacuation flights. But President Biden is refusing to budge.

Scores of Afghans sit inside a German military aircraft as it flies from Kabul to Tashkent
The Taliban has called any extension of US troop presence in Kabul a 'red line'Image: picture alliance/dpa/Bundeswehr

US President Joe Biden is reportedly sticking to his plan to end the evacuation by August 31, despite leaders of other top industrialized nations urging him to extend the effort at the G-7 summit on Tuesday.

 "The president of the United States did not announce any new dates beyond August 31 today," German Chancellor Angela Merkel said after the virtual meeting.

Ahead of the talks, ministers from Germany, the UK and Spain expressed doubt over the possibility of evacuating all eligible Afghans before the August 31 withdrawal deadline set by US President Joe Biden.

"Even if [the evacuation] goes on until August 31, or even a few days longer, it will not be enough time to evacuate those who we, and the United States, want to evacuate," German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also told Bild TV.

Other foreign military forces have already said that without the US presence at Kabul airport, they will not be able to maintain security.

US worried about risk to troops, looks into alternatives

European Council President Charles Michel said Tuesday that European leaders had implored their "American friends" to "secure the airport as long as necessary to complete the operations and ensure a fair and equitable access to the airport for all nationals entitled to evacuation."

Nevertheless, according to US officials, President Biden has decided against extending his August 31 deadline after meetings with his national security team. Washington says the decision was made after weighing the risks of keeping forces on the ground beyond that time. Biden has, however, asked his team to prepare contingency plans in the event that evacuations cannot be completed by then.

The Taliban has threatened "consequences" if foreign troops stay beyond the deadline and reiterated that stance on Tuesday evening.

Longer-term humanitarian pledges

The UK is currently serving as the chair for the G-7, which also includes Germany, Canada, France, Italy, Japan and the US. Representatives from the EU and NATO were also present at the summit.

"Our first priority is to complete the evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have assisted our efforts over the last 20 years — but as we look ahead to the next phase, it’s vital we come together as an international community and agree a joint approach for the longer term," British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement on Tuesday.

Johnson called on the Taliban to ensure free passage for those Afghans who sought to leave the country, even after Western troops had departed.

G-7 leaders have agreed that the militants "must guarantee safe passage for those fleeing Afghanistan beyond the current August 31 evacuation deadline," according to Boris Johnson.

Moreover, the prime minister's office released a statement of warning: "We reaffirm that the Taliban will be held accountable for their actions on preventing terrorism, on human rights in particular those of women, girls and minorities and on pursuing an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan."

The UK already announced on Friday that it would double its humanitarian and development aid for the country to £286 million (€334 million, $392 million).

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the EU would try to boost humanitarian assistance to Afghans from €50 million ($59 million) to €200 million based on contributions by EU member states.

Thousands may be abandoned

Around 50,000 foreigners and Afghans have managed to flee Afghanistan via Kabul's airport since the Taliban took power of the capital just over a week ago.

However, many remain trapped in the country, including those who supported foreign troops and who are now fearing retribution from Taliban militants.

Those who are outside of Kabul are encountering additional difficulties, as even many approved for evacuation by foreign states have been turned back by the Taliban before reaching the airport.

The chairs of the foreign affairs committees of the various G-7 countries, including Germany's Norbert Röttgen, signed a joint statement calling on the governments to "avoid arbitrary dates on the end of military support for the evacuation mission and artificial caps on the number of evacuees," according to German broadcaster ARD.

ab/dj (AFP, dpa, Reuters)