G7: Europe’s leaders expected to urge Biden to extend Afghanistan troop withdrawals

Europe’s leaders have stepped up calls for the United States to keep troops in Kabul beyond the end-of-the-month deadline for their withdrawal, as they prepare for a special G7 summit on Tuesday.

The crisis in the country will dominate discussions at the virtual meeting, hosted by the United Kingdom, as the rush continues to try to complete evacuations from Afghanistan in time.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and others, including French President Emmanuel Macron. are pushing Joe Biden to extend the August 31 deadline that the US president imposed for the total withdrawal of American forces.

This is to help bring out thousands of foreign nationals as well as Afghans who worked for or otherwise supported the American-led NATO operation.

But the Taliban have insisted that Western forces must complete evacuations by the end of the month.

Amid the chaos that unfolded surrounding the evacuations in Kabul last week, and under pressure from allies, Biden has said military discussions are underway over a possible extension.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Monday he was “concerned (about) the cutoff date. An extension is necessary to see through the operations that are underway”.

Germany is also talking to the United States, Turkey and other allies in order to keep Kabul airport open for evacuations beyond August 31, Foreign Minister Heiko Mass said.

“We must continue to talk to the Taliban, because of course they will have a particular role to play in how the airport functions after the withdrawal of American troops,” he added.

The UK prime minister is also expected to call on world leaders to reinforce their support for Afghan refugees and humanitarian aid, as well as develop a long-term strategy for Afghanistan, when he hosts the summit.

Boris Johnson said on Monday that Western allies would “use every humanitarian and diplomatic lever to safeguard human rights” and protect social advances following the Taliban’s takeover of the country.

The Islamist militants would be “judged by their deeds and not their words,” he added.

Tuesday’s G7 summit will bring together the leaders of France, Germany, Italy, the UK, the US, Canada and Japan, and will take place by video link in the afternoon. The heads of NATO and the UN have also been invited.

Boris Johnson spoke by phone to Joe Biden on Monday ahead of the meeting. A statement from Downing Street said the two leaders had pledged to work together to ensure that those with the right to leave Afghanistan would be able to do so.

But the statement did not mention London’s wish to see the troop withdrawal deadline extended beyond August 31.

The US State Department says it is boosting its vetting and evacuation efforts.

State Department Spokesman Ned Price says during a 24-hour period, starting on August 22nd, 28 US military flights evacuated approximately 10,400 people from Kabul. Price says 61 coalition aircraft also evacuated approximately 5,900 people from the airport.

Afghanistan’s burgeoning refugee crisis, the collapse of its government and fears of a resurgence in Afghan-based terrorism have left the G7 allies scrambling and threaten the unity of the bloc.

Price told reporters that the temporary transit locations that have been set up in the U.S. or at joint bases in Germany, Italy and Spain have capacity to process at least 15,000 people on a rolling basis.

Price said that is helping to facilitate the relocation of US citizens and at risk Afghans from Afghanistan.

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