Joe Biden is ‘unlikely’ to back Afghan extension beyond August 31 for Kabul evacuation, Defence Secretary says

The Prime Minister is chairing an emergency G7 meeting of nations to coordinate a response to the crisis in Afghanistan as the race to evacuate people continues

Joe Biden is “unlikely” to delay the departure of US troops from Afghanistan to allow more people to be evacuated, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has conceded ahead of emergency talks.

The Cabinet minister warned that the security risk in Kabul gets “more and more dangerous” every day as the August 31 withdrawal deadline looms.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Boris Johnson will host a virtual G7 summit on Tuesday afternoon during which he is expected to press the US president to keep his troops in the Afghan capital for longer
  • The Taliban, which swept to power last week in the wake of America’s major withdrawal of troops, warned of consequences if foreign forces remain past the deadline
  • Britain has evacuated 8,600 people from Afghanistan in the past 10 days, including more than 2,000 in the previous 24 hours, according to the Defence Secretary
  • Mr Wallace has insisted it would not be appropriate to try to secure Kabul airport with British troops after the US pulls out
  • Ahead of the summit, six chairs of foreign affairs committees in G7 parliaments issued a joint statement urging against “arbitrary dates” for ending military support for the evacuation

What’s been said

Acknowledging that “we’re not going to get everybody out of the country”, Mr Wallace expressed pessimism about the prospect of the evacuation operation from Kabul airport continuing after August 31.

“I think it is unlikely. Not only because of what the Taliban has said but if you look at the public statements of President Biden I think it is unlikely,” he told Sky News.

“It is definitely worth us all trying and we will.”

“It’s not about effectively whether I could fly in thousands of troops and secure the airport. Yes I could do that, I could probably secure the airport for a few months, or maybe a year or two,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“But for what purpose? For them to be shot at, attacked, people not to get to the airport and to trigger just a permanent fight? I don’t think that is a solution.”

Background

Mr Wallace envisaged the “consequences” threatened by the Taliban of missing the deadline to leave could range from preventing people going to Kabul airport to “military activity that could potentially close the airport”.

It comes as the Prime Minister spoke to Mr Biden on Monday evening ahead of the G7 leaders call today, which will also include the general secretaries of Nato and the UN.

In a statement, Mr Johnson promised “to use every humanitarian and diplomatic lever” to protect human rights in Afghanistan.

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