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US set to pull out of Kabul airport despite allies’ pleas

US set to pull out of Kabul airport despite allies’ pleas

The US is set to pull out of Kabul airport despite major pleas from allies.

 

The Taliban had warned of ‘consequences’ if the US extends its military presence in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 deadline.

 

In an interview with Sky News on Sunday, the Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said: “It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.”

 

“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” he added.

 

“It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction,” Shaheen continued.

 

 


Taliban sources have also told Reuters that they would not extend the August 31 deadline for Western forces. They added that no one had approached the group about pushing the date back.

US set to pull out of Kabul airport despite allies’ pleas
US set to pull out of Kabul airport despite allies’ pleas

Shaheen’s statement came hours after Biden told a Sunday press conference that the US could extend the August 31 withdrawal deadline as efforts to evacuate thousands of US citizens and Afghans who have worked for Western nations continue.

 

Leaders throughout Europe used a meeting of G7 leaders to call for more time to complete evacuations from Kabul airport following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, but seemingly in vain, as Washington stuck to a deadline next week.

 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would personally request a deadline extension from Biden.

 

Many countries doubt evacuations can continue without the support of US troops.

 

However, the US provided little hope for an extension on Tuesday. White House spokesperson Jen Psaki said the US will evacuate its troops from Afghanistan by August 31 as planned.

 

“[US President Joe Biden] confirmed we are currently on pace to finish by August 31st 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,” she said.

 

“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,” she said, referring to a terrorist group active in Afghanistan.

 

 


Completing the mission by August 31 depends on continued coordination with the Taliban, including continued access for evacuees to the airport, Psaki said. “In addition, the president has asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timeline should that become necessary.”

 

The Taliban have repeatedly insisted that Washington keeps this promise and have referred to the August 31 deadline a “red line” that should not be crossed. However, it is questionable whether it will be possible to get all foreign citizens and Afghan aid workers out of the country by then.

 

Even before Psaki’s comments, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had said he and others had failed to convince the US to stay past August 31, despite pleas during the videoconference.

 

The European Union called on the United States to keep Kabul Airport safe for “as long as necessary,” European Council President Charles Michel said.

 

The bloc raised two issues with Washington, Michel said; the need to secure the airport to allow the completion of evacuations, and “a fair and equitable access to the airport for all nationals entitled to evacuation.”

 

Several [G7] leaders had expressed concerns about ending evacuation operations on August 31, Michel said.

 

 


“In any case, it will be key to guarantee safe passages” for Afghans leaving the county after the end of the month, and the airport would be crucial to supply humanitarian assistance, he noted.

US set to pull out of Kabul airport despite allies’ pleas
US set to pull out of Kabul airport despite allies’ pleas

Michel and European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen represented the European Union at the talks.

 

She said the international community must do everything possible to organize legal ways for Afghan women and children to escape.

 

“We need to help mostly those who are at immediate risk. And those are women, girls and children, who make up the vast majority of internally displaced people – 80 per cent of the internally displaced people in Afghanistan are women and girls, and up to now, the number runs up to around 3.7 million internally displaced people in Afghanistan,” von der Leyen said, according to a statement.

 

“And this is why there was broad determination to step up contribution in humanitarian aid.”

 

NATO Secretary, General Jens Stoltenberg echoed the calls. He also said that several hundred NATO staff and contractors had provided critical services, such as air traffic control, fuel supply, and communications at the airport, according to alliance headquarters.

 

Stoltenberg also said that NATO has also taken on a coordinating role, to ensure that people could be evacuated as effectively as possible.

 

He noted that NATO’s main priority was to make sure that Afghanistan does not again become a platform for international terrorists.

 

Meanwhile others called for more support for migration, amid concerns about where the Afghans fleeing the country will go.

 

 


Italian Prime Minister, Mario Draghi said the countries where migrants want to go have, so far, not managed to make a joint and coordinated effort at the European or international level.

 

Italy will also use funds it had earmarked for Afghan security forces for humanitarian aid on the ground, he said. “I ask you all to join this commitment,” Draghi said.

 

Earlier, CIA chief William Burns was flown into Kabul for a one-to-one meeting with the powerful deputy head of the Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Washington Post reported on Tuesday.

 

The CIA declined to confirm the meeting with Baradar, who is regarded as a possible future head of government.

 

In view of the evacuation mission at Kabul airport, the US government is in regular contact with the Taliban. The spokesperson for the US Defense Department, John Kirby, said on Monday that they were communicating “several times a day” with the Taliban.

 

Scenes of chaos and desperation have unfolded at Kabul’s international airport after the Taliban seized power more than a week ago, as thousands fleeing the Islamist group attempt to leave the country.

 

Seven people were killed in a stampede at the airport on Sunday, and an Afghan military member was killed in a firefight early Monday morning, reports said.

 

The US and its allies have evacuated about 28,000 people from Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban’s seizing power in a rapid offensive that took Western powers by surprise.

 

The Taliban seized Kabul and the Afghan presidential palace on August 15.

 

Since then, reports have emerged of Taliban militants attempting to hunt down Afghans who had worked for Western nations in door-to-door searches.

 

 


When pressed about the scenes of desperation at Kabul airport, where people have been filmed clinging to departing aircraft, Shaheen said that the bid to escape the country was not about being “worried or scared.”

 

“They want to reside in Western countries,” he said. “And that is a kind of economic migration because Afghanistan is a poor country, and 70% of the people of Afghanistan live under the line of poverty, so everyone wants to resettle in Western countries to have a prosperous life. It is not about scared.”

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