On Monday the Taliban* rejected proposals set to be discussed at an emergency virtual meeting of G7 leaders on Tuesday for a two-day extension to the August 31 deadline for foreign troops recently redeployed to Kabul’s airport to finally leave Afghanistan after 20 years.
The UK’s defence secretary has warned Afghan asylum-seekers that some will be left behind in the airlift prompted by Washington’s rushed evacuation of its Kabul embassy.
“I’ve been very clear, not everyone will get out” Ben Wallace told ITV News on Monday morning.
“The speed at which we have to leave, the challenges around crowds, of many people who… don’t meet any criteria that are trying to get out of the country, creates real problems for us in making sure everyone gets out,” Wallace said.
On Monday, US troops occupying the heavily-fortified Hamid Karzai International Airport in the north of the Afghan capital unilaterally began restricting entry to citizens of the US and other NATO countries or those with US ‘green card’ immigration documents. Meanwhile German troops at the airport said they and US troops had engaged in a gun battle with “Afghan security forces” and killed one of them.
At least 20 people have been killed so far as a result of the chaotic evacuation, including seven civilians crushed as crowds surged to push their way in on Saturday and three killed when a US C-17 transport jet took off with people clinging to the undercarriage.
Wallace also said the pull-out was now “down to hours, not weeks” — after Taliban spokesman and peace negotiator Dr Suhail Shaheen rejected any suggestion of an extension to the August 31 deadline for US troops to leave Kabul as a “red line”.
”It’s really important for people to understand that the United States has over 6,000 people in Kabul airport and when they withdraw that will take away the framework that has allowed us to withdraw, and we will have to go as well,” the minister told Sky News. “I don’t think there is any likelihood of staying on after the United States.”
“We are really down to hours now, not weeks, and we have to make sure we exploit every minute to get people out,” Wallace stressed.
The White House’s decision to hurriedly abandon its Kabul embassy — whose 4,000 staff includes 1,400 US citizens — as the Taliban* rapidly prompted UK, Canada, France, Germany and other NATO members to follow suit.
The abandonment of Western embassies has sparked a mass panicked exodus among those who worked for the 20-year US-led occupation, along with others hopeful of a new life in the West. The NATO powers have shown willingness to evacuate them, with the US flying out thousands to processing camps in third countries in the Middle East and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledging to take in 25,000.
*The Taliban is a terrorist organisation banned in several countries including Russia.