Deadlock remains on Afghanistan evacuation after G7 summit
By Hamed Chapman and Ahmed J Versi
London, (The Muslim News): British Prime Minister Boris Johnson insisted Tuesday that the evacuation from Afghanistan had so far been a huge success despite failing to persuade US President Joe Biden to extend the agreed deadline next week after an emergency virtual meeting of G7 leaders.
“The immediate phase of the evacuation is actually being a very considerable success by the military and I think most people looking at the numbers that we have got out would say it was quite remarkable,” Johnson said.
“Since 14th of August we’ve got 9,000 people coming to this country, hoping to make new lives and obviously we’re having to check them to vet them,” he said in a pooled interview following the brief summit.
The failure to convince the US to extend next week’s deadline was confirmed by President Joe Biden.
Biden’s press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed the withdrawal would finish by August 31. She said: “During a meeting this morning with the G7 leaders, the President conveyed that our mission in Kabul will end based on the achievement of our objectives.
“He confirmed we are currently on pace to finish by August 31 and provided an update on progress in evacuating Americans who want to come home, third-country nationals, and Afghans who were our allies during the war.
“He also made clear that with each day of operations on the ground, we have added risk to our troops with increasing threats from Isis-K.
“In addition, the president has asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timeline should that become necessary,” said Psaki.
Ahead of the emergency meeting, the British premier said that the “first priority is to complete the evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have assisted our efforts over the last 20 years” and had convened the talks with western allies to “coordinate our response to the crisis.”
The agreement to evacuate the country by the end of August had been made between the US and the Taliban before it seized power in Kabul and prior to the G7 summit it was revealed that Biden had sent CIA Director William Burns to have secret talks with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar on the eve of the summit.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby also said there had been “no change to the timeline of the mission” insisting the working deadline for evacuation of all Americans is the end of the month and that it has become more doable because of the increase in the number of flights going out of Kabul.
In his pooled interview, Johnson focused more on what he called “a roadmap” for the way in which the alliance members were going to engage with the Taliban in effect to try to shape the incoming government in Kabul.
“The number one condition, we’re setting as G7 is that they have got to guarantee, through August 31st and beyond, safe passage. Safe passage for those who, who want to come out.”
“Some of them will say that they don’t accept that and some I hope I will see the sense of that because the G7 has very considerable leverage, economic, diplomatic and political,” he stressed.
During Taliban press conference earlier on Tuesday, the group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said they will not extend evacuation of US citizens & others from Afghanistan beyond Aug 31 otherwise they will “take a different stance” as this was a violation of agreement with the US.
He also said Taliban would not agree to evacuation of flights after the deadline.
Shadow Foreign Secretary, Lisa Nandy responding to the failure of Johnson to persuade Biden to extend evacuation beyond Aug 31, said: “This is a dark moment for the UK Government and for Afghans.
“The Prime Minister has failed to persuade President Biden to agree to extension to evacuation efforts and the painful reality is that people will be left behind – that’s appalling and unconscionable. With 18 months to prepare for this, we are left with a desperate scramble, with heroic soldiers and diplomats on the ground trying to move mountains while the clock keeps ticking.”
Reacting to the Prime Minister’s statement following the emergency G7 summit today, Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:
“Boris Johnson has come out from this summit with nothing. Britain should stand tall in the world, but this Prime Minister falls short at every turn.
“He has failed on the global stage once more, and the consequences could not be more devastating.
“We abandoned all those who needed us in their hour of need; those who have put themselves in danger to protect British troops, vulnerable women and girls, and all those who simply fought to make their country a better place to live.
“There have been calls for a safe passage to be prioritised since the outset of this crisis, but the government was caught on the hoof, and left scrambling with the clock ticking.”
In one of the first moves, the EU announced it would be freezing €1bn in development aid it has set aside for Afghanistan over the next seven years, while calling on the new Afghan authorities to allow free passage to all foreign, and Afghan, citizens who wish to get to the airport.
[Photo: Prime Minister Boris Johnson holds virtual G7 leaders meeting to discuss Afghanistan in 9 Downing Street on 24 August 2021. Picture by Simon Dawson / No 10 Downing Street]
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