London, United Kingdom:
Britain said Monday it would urge the United States to extend the month-end deadline for evacuations from Afghanistan, while the Taliban warned any delay would lead to “consequences”.
US President Joe Biden has set an August 31 deadline for the chaotic airlift being organized by thousands of US troops temporarily deployed, but has left the door open for an extension if necessary.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Prime Minister Boris Johnson would “try to raise the prospect of seeing if the United States extends the deadline” at an online leaders’ meeting of the G7 rich countries’ group on Tuesday.
But a Taliban spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, told Sky News the hardline Islamist group would not agree to any extension of the deadline, calling it a “red line”, with any delay being seen as “expansion of the occupation”. .
“If the US or the UK were to seek additional time to continue the evacuations, the answer is no. Otherwise there would be consequences,” Shaheen said.
“If they intend to continue the occupation, that will cause a reaction,” he added.
The British defense secretary stressed that the evacuations from the capital of Afghanistan can only continue after August 31 if the US is under leadership.
“It’s really important for people to understand that the United States has more than 6,000 people at the Kabul airport and when they pull out, that’s going to take away the framework…and we’re going to have to go too,” Wallace told reporters in Scotland.
“If their timetable is extended even by a day or two, we will have another day or two to evacuate people,” he said.
“Because we’re really working for hours now, not weeks, and we have to make sure we use every minute to get people out.”
Britain currently chairs the G7, which also includes Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.
Taliban faces choice
British Defense Secretary James Heappey told Sky News the “harsh reality” was that the Taliban had a crucial voice now that they control Afghanistan.
“I think everyone should be clear that this is not just a discussion between G7 leaders taking place tomorrow, it is a discussion taking place with the Taliban,” he said.
“The Taliban will have a choice, they can either try to reach out to the international community and show that they want to be part of the international system.
“Or they can turn around and say there is no possibility of extension.”
Britain, which has deployed 1,000 soldiers to support its airlift efforts, is pushing for longer to get everyone eligible out, with defense ministers from its transatlantic allies speaking by phone on Sunday.
According to the Defense Ministry, London has so far evacuated 5,725 people from Kabul since August 13, including more than 3,100 Afghan individuals and their families.
Heappey said early Monday that the UK expects nine more flights to depart in the next 24 hours.
He told Times Radio that Afghans eligible for asylum in the West also fled the country by land, showing up at embassies in neighboring countries such as Pakistan.
(This story was not edited by NewsMadura staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)