Biden confirms withdrawal from Afghanistan on August 31 despite pressure from G7

The United States clashed with some of its closest allies over President Joe Biden’s insistence to stick to the Afghanistan withdrawal date of Aug. 31 that will end a frenzied international evacuation effort by the Taliban regime.

Biden insisted after virtual conversations with leaders of the Group of Seven industrialized democracies on Tuesday that the United States and its closest allies would “stand shoulder to shoulder” in future actions on Afghanistan and the Taliban, despite disappointing them in their urgent pleas now. to allow time for more airlifts.

The US president insisted that the risk of terrorist attacks was too great to comply with calls from G-7 leaders to keep what are now 5,800 US troops at Kabul airport beyond the end of the month. , anchoring the air bridges.

Britain and other allies, many of whose troops followed US forces in Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago to deal with conspirators in the September 11 attacks on the United States, had urged Biden to keep US forces at the airport. from Kabul any longer. No country could evacuate all of its at-risk Afghan citizens and allies before the Aug. 31 deadline, allied officials said.

“We will continue until the last moment we can,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had openly lobbied to maintain a presence at the airport after August 31. Johnson acknowledged that he was unable to convince Biden to extend the US military presence at the talks Tuesday.

“But you have heard what the president of the United States has said, you have heard what the Taliban have said,” he said.

A senior French official, speaking anonymously in accordance with the usual practices of the French presidency, said that President Emmanuel Macron had pushed to extend the August 31 deadline but would “adapt” to the US sovereign decision. “That is in the hands of the Americans,” he said.

In a partial show of unity, G7 leaders agreed on the conditions for recognizing and dealing with a future Taliban-led Afghan government, but there was a palpable disappointment that failed to persuade Biden to extend the US operation at Kabul airport to ensure that tens of thousands of Americans, Europeans, other third-country nationals and all Afghans at risk can be evacuated.

The meeting of the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US served not only as a finishing touch to the 20 years of West involvement in Afghanistan that began in response to the terrorist attacks. of September 11, 2001, but also a resigned recognition by the European powers that the United States commands.

“Our immediate priority is to ensure the safe evacuation of our citizens and the Afghans who have partnered with us and assisted our efforts over the past twenty years, and to ensure safe and continuous passage out of Afghanistan,” the leaders said in a joint statement that did not address precisely how they would guarantee a safe and continuous passage without a military presence.

Going forward, the leaders said they would “judge the Afghan parties on their actions, not on their words,” echoing earlier warnings to the Taliban not to revert to the strict Islamic form of government they had when they took power for last time from 1996 to the United States. -leaded invasion that drove them out in 2001.

“In particular, we reaffirm that the Taliban will be responsible for their actions in preventing terrorism, in human rights in particular those of women, girls and minorities, and in seeking an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan,” the leaders said. “The legitimacy of any future government depends on the approach it takes now to meet its international obligations and commitments to ensure a stable Afghanistan.”

However, individual leaders offered less optimistic descriptions of the meeting, as well as the state of affairs in Afghanistan, which has changed dramatically since the bloc last met in Britain in June. At the time of that summit, Afghanistan had been almost an afterthought with the leaders most focused on the coronavirus pandemic, China and Russia. Although Biden had announced his plan for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Cornwall meeting did not anticipate the rapid takeover of the Taliban.

“I want to emphasize again that, of course, the United States of America has the lead here,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin after the meeting. “Without the United States of America, for example, we, the others, cannot continue the evacuation mission.”

On Monday, CIA chief William Burns met with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul in talks in which the Taliban stressed that they would not accept a US military presence at the airport beyond August 31.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said Tuesday that his group would not accept “any extension” of the deadline.

The G-7 leaders were also joined by the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the Secretary General of the United Nations, António Guterres, and the Secretary General of NATO, Jens Stoltenberg.

(AP)

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