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US President Joe Biden, despite international pressure, including major European allies, insisted on a plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of this month to allow more time for the evacuation.
Biden’s decision puts an end to days of uncertainty about the fate of August 31, the deadline for the final withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan. Despite growing concerns about the security situation around Kabul’s airport and the chaotic efforts to evacuate thousands of foreign nationals and Afghans from the country.
A White House official said that the President of the United States is following the Pentagon’s recommendations to respect the self-set timetable for withdrawal. However, Biden has asked senior officials to develop contingency plans in case the deadline does need to be extended.
Biden is particularly under pressure from the United Kingdom, France and Germany to extend the U.S. mission in Afghanistan beyond August 31, including during the G7 virtual meeting on Tuesday.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who presided over the meeting, said that the leaders of the Group of Seven countries have agreed to adopt a joint approach to pressure the Taliban to allow Afghans to leave the country safely after August 31.
“The first condition we set for the G7 is that they must ensure safe passage for those who come up with it on August 31 and beyond,” he said.
Johnson insisted that “the immediate evacuation phase actually achieved considerable success in the military”, but together with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, he hopes that there will be more time for people to leave. Kabul.
The President of the European Council Charles Michel stated that several G7 leaders expressed concern during the meeting about the August 31 deadline.
At the time of the G7 meeting, the Taliban blocked the Afghans’ access to Kabul’s airport, a move that may put those vulnerable to retaliation by the Islamic movement into trouble.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the organization will allow foreigners to leave through the airport, but due to crowd confusion and the risk of stampede, the organization ordered Afghans not to go to the airport and urged them to return to work and their homes.
He reiterated that all foreign evacuation must be completed before August 31. “We don’t allow this anymore and call on them to evacuate before that date,” he said. “them [western states] It is possible that they have a plane and the airport is by their side, and they can evacuate people before that date. “
According to a person familiar with the matter, the Taliban’s move was made after the CIA Director William Burns met with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Gani Baradhar this week, since the Islamic organization returned to power. The highest face-to-face meeting. Meet. The CIA declined to comment.
Washington has been increasingly criticized for its methods of withdrawal and the chaos surrounding the withdrawal process. Ten days ago, after the drawdown of the US military, the Taliban launched a blitzkrieg across the country and seized power.
Many Afghans worry that the Taliban will persecute those who work for the Western military, such as translators and drivers, as well as reporters and critics of Islamic organizations.
Mujahid rejected allegations that the Taliban were looking for individuals related to the old regime, saying that the organization had announced an amnesty. He said that hospitals and schools have reopened and the bank is scheduled to reopen on Wednesday.
Mujahid added that the Afghans at the airport have nothing to fear. “We guarantee their safety.”
Many people scrambling to board the plane are the most educated members of the population, and they need to keep the economy and public services running.
Western officials expressed concern that as the August 31 deadline approaches, the security situation is in danger of deteriorating.
“As the deadline is getting closer, I think the claim that security risks are rising is correct,” British Defense Minister Ben Wallace told Sky News. “It’s becoming more and more dangerous because additional organizations and other terrorist organizations, such as ISIS, want to be seen to get honor, or they want to be seen to drive the West out of the airport.”
The US military reported on Tuesday the largest day of airlift from Afghanistan, with 37 US flights taking 12,700 people out of the country within 24 hours. The White House stated that 21,600 people were evacuated during the same period, including coalition flights.
Additional reporting by Aime Williams and Katrina Manson in Washington