Race to evacuate continues as Prime Minister chairs G7 Afghanistan meeting

Boris Johnson said The Taliban will be “judged by their deeds and not their words” ahead of the G7 meeting

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

Ahead of the virtual meeting, Boris Johnson promised “to use every humanitarian and diplomatic lever” to protect human rights in the country, following the Taliban takeover.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • The prime minister is expected to push the US to extend its presence in the country past August 31 to allow the evacuation effort more time
  • A Taliban spokesperson said on Monday that any attempt to continue the military evacuation operation past August 31 would “provoke a reaction”
  • On Monday Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the Kabul evacuation effort is “down to hours now, not weeks”, as he acknowledged that America’s exit will mean “we will have to go as well”
  • The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said Operation Pitting, the military evacuation that began on Friday August 13, has so far extracted 7,109 people out of Kabul
  • Former Commons deputy speaker Lord Naseby urged Parliament to be recalled for a Saturday sitting on August 28 so MPs and peers can assess the final days of the evacuation effort

What’s been said

Downing Street said Mr Johnson and President Biden spoke on Monday ahead of the G7 leaders meeting.

In a readout of the call, Downing Street said: “The leaders agreed to continue working together to ensure those who are eligible to leave are able to, including after the initial phase of the evacuation has ended.”

It added the two leaders: “Committed to driving international action, including through the G7 and UN Security Council, to stabilise the situation, support the Afghan people and work towards an inclusive and representative Afghan government.”

In a statement released ahead of Tuesday’s meeting, Mr Johnson said: “Our first priority is to complete the evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have assisted our efforts over the last 20 years – but as we look ahead to the next phase, it’s vital we come together as an international community and agree a joint approach for the longer term.

“That’s why I’ve called an emergency meeting of the G7 – to coordinate our response to the immediate crisis, to reaffirm our commitment to the Afghan people, and to ask our international partners to match the UK’s commitments to support those in need.

“Together with our partners and allies, we will continue to use every humanitarian and diplomatic lever to safeguard human rights and protect the gains made over the last two decades. The Taliban will be judged by their deeds and not their words.”

Background

President Biden signalled on Sunday that he did not want US armed forces to stay in the central Asian country beyond August, saying: “Our hope is that we don’t have to extend but there are discussions going on about how far we are.”

Government officials said there is “no fixed date” on when the UK will withdraw, but it is feared that without US boots on the ground, the remaining allied forces would be unable to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport from the crowds looking to flee the Taliban takeover, or other potential security threats.

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