Boris Johnson fails to convince Joe Biden to extend Afghanistan evacuation deadline

·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read

Watch: Boris Johnson discusses 31 August Afghanistan deadline

Boris Johnson has failed to persuade Joe Biden to keep US troops in Kabul after the 31 August deadline.

It follows emergency talks at a virtual G7 summit hosted by Johnson on Tuesday afternoon.

The prime minister had hoped to convince the president to keep the remaining troops in Kabul to allow for more evacuations following the Taliban's seizure of Afghanistan earlier this month.

Biden, however, is pressing ahead with his withdrawal plans.

The Taliban had warned on Monday there will be "consequences" if foreign soldiers do not leave the country by the 31 August deadline.

TOPSHOT - US soldiers stand guard behind barbed wire as Afghans sit on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021, hoping to flee from the country after the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan. (Photo by Wakil KOHSAR / AFP) (Photo by WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images)
US soldiers stand guard behind barbed wire on Friday near the military part of the airport in Kabul. Thousands of Afghans have fled following the Taliban's seizure of the country. (AFP via Getty Images)

It then stepped up the pressure ahead of the summit on Tuesday by saying no further evacuations will be allowed after this date.

In a broadcast clip after the meeting, however, the PM said the UK and the other G7 nations remain committed to the "safe passage" of evacuees after 31 August.

He said: "The number one condition we’re setting as G7 is that they [the Taliban] have got to guarantee, right the way through, through 31 August and beyond, safe passage for those who want to come out."

Johnson did not explain how this would work without US military support, with US soldiers having provided security at Kabul airport to allow people to flee the country.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson walks from 10 Downing Street to the press briefing room at 9 Downing Street to chair an emergency meeting with G7 counterparts over the Afghanistan crisis in central London on August 24, 2021. - The UK was set to chair the emergency talks among the G7 group of wealthy countries on August 24, and has said it will urge the United States to extend the end-of-the-month deadline to complete the Afghan airlifts. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson in Downing Street on Tuesday ahead of the emergency G7 meeting. (AFP via Getty Images)

He only said the G7 – a group which includes the US – "has very considerable leverage: economic, diplomatic and political".

He said this demand is part of a "road map for the way in which we’re going to engage with the Taliban".

Johnson was also asked if he made clear his "frustration" to Biden – who spoke at the G7 summit for about seven minutes – about the president's refusal to extend the deadline, but he refused to answer.

He responded: "Let's be clear, the immediate phase of the evacuation has actually been a very considerable success by the military."

Why did it all come down to 31 August in the first place?

It's a continuation of the February 2020 "peace" agreement struck between Biden's predecessor Donald Trump and the Taliban to end US involvement in Afghanistan.

Earlier this year, Biden followed through on Trump's agreement.

TOPSHOT - US President Joe Biden delivers remarks about the situation in Afghanistan in the East Room of the White House on August 16, 2021 in Washington,DC. - President Joe Biden broke his silence Monday on the US fiasco in Afghanistan with his address to the nation from the White House, as a lightning Taliban victory sent the Democrat's domestic political fortunes reeling. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)
US president Joe Biden (AFP via Getty Images)

On 14 April, Biden pledged: "US troops, as well as forces deployed by our NATO Allies and operational partners, will be out of Afghanistan before we mark the 20th anniversary of that heinous attack on 11 September, 2001."

"It’s time to end the forever war," the president said.

On 8 July, with troops already beginning to depart, Biden then announced: "Our military mission in Afghanistan will conclude on 31 August."

Biden's commitment, of course, was complicated by the Taliban's stunning seizure of Afghanistan this month.

The president is seen by many to have acted unilaterally with his decision to withdraw troops, in turn leaving allies such as the UK exposed.

On the same day as Biden's announcement last month, Boris Johnson confirmed that "most of our personnel have already left".

The subsequent debacle in Afghanistan has hugely damaged Biden's international standing, with Tony Blair, who sent UK troops to Afghanistan 20 years ago following the 9/11 attacks, saying the withdrawal was "in obedience to an imbecilic political slogan about ending ‘the forever wars’".

He added Britain has a “moral obligation” to stay until “all those who need to be are evacuated”.

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On Monday, the situation was further complicated as a Taliban spokesman warned there will be "consequences" if foreign soldiers do not leave Afghanistan by Biden's agreed deadline of 31 August.

Suhail Shaheen said extending evacuations beyond that date would be considered a "red line" and would “provoke a reaction”.

He told Sky News: "If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no."

On Tuesday, another Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said no evacuations would be permitted after the deadline as he urged Afghans to “return to their homes and resume their calm everyday lives”.

Watch: Joe Biden defends Afghanistan withdrawal (from Monday)

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