Afghanistan: US under pressure over evacuation deadline

The US is being pressed to allow more time for evacuation from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as the deadline for its withdrawal nears. Under an agreement with the Taliban, the US must leave by 31 August.

But France, the UK and Germany all raised the possibility of allowing more time ahead of a summit on Tuesday. US President Joe Biden is set to decide within the next 24 hours whether to extend the timeline for withdrawal, an official told Reuters news agency.

However the Taliban have told the BBC that any extension would violate the agreed deal and warned of consequences if forces remained. Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from the Afghan capital Kabul, but others seeking to flee remain crammed in or near the city’s airport, which is guarded by US forces and their allies.

Many of the people fleeing, particularly those who worked with foreign forces, live in fear of reprisals from a group that imposed a harsh version of Islamic law when in power from 1996 to 2001.

France’s Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told reporters in the UAE: “We are concerned about the deadline set by the United States on August 31. Additional time is needed to complete ongoing operations.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said he had discussed keeping Kabul airport open beyond the deadline with Nato allies and the Taliban.

On Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to push the US for an extension during the virtual summit with other G7 leaders. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the prime minister was “going to try and raise the prospect of seeing if the United States will extend” its withdrawal.

The UK has said that any foreign military presence at Kabul airport cannot continue without US troops.

Military advisers have told the White House that a decision needs to be made on Tuesday in order to allow for the troops along with their equipment and weapons to leave in time for the deadline, CNN reports.

A defense official told the network that if Mr Biden agreed on withdrawing in time for the deadline, there would be “a few more” days of evacuating people before the drawdown of troops began, possibly at the end of this week. Currently 5,800 troops are on the ground. [BBC]

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