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by Andrew Learmonth
24 August 2021
Joe Biden under pressure to keep America in Afghanistan beyond next week's deadline

Joe Biden under pressure to keep America in Afghanistan beyond next week's deadline

Joe Biden will come under pressure to keep the US in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 deadline to complete evacuations. 

Boris Johnson will chair an online meeting of the G7 later today, with world leaders discussing the deteriorating situation since the fall of Kabul just ten days ago. 

Tens of thousands of diplomats and Afghans who worked with western forces are desperate to get out of the country. 

The UK Government has already admitted that not everyone will be airlifted out. 

The meeting will also discuss whether to sanction or officially recognise the Taliban’s position as the government of Afghanistan. Doing so would allow the Islamist group access to the foreign aid relied upon by previous Afghan governments. 

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon warned against a “cut and run” operation in the country, and urged NATO forces to stay into the next month 

The Taliban have made clear that they would not tolerate western forces staying into September – a spokesperson for the group said on Monday this would cross a “red line” and “provoke a reaction”.

In remarks released ahead of the G7 meeting, Johnson said that his “first priority is to complete the evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have assisted our efforts over the last 20 years”. 

He also said the G7 had to “look ahead to the next phase” when it would be “vital we come together as an international community and agree a joint approach”.

“Together with our partners and allies, we will continue to use every humanitarian and diplomatic lever to safeguard human rights,” he added.

However, this morning, the UK defence secretary, Ben Wallace, has said it is “unlikely” the evacuation of Kabul will be extended beyond the 31 August deadline.

He told Sky News: “I think it is unlikely. Not only because of what the Taliban has said but if you look at the public statements of President Biden I think it is unlikely. It is definitely worth us all trying, and we will.”

Wallace said around 8,600 people have been evacuated from Afghanistan in last two weeks, including 2,000 people in the last 24 hours.

Speaking to the PA news agency, Sturgeon said: “I support calls to ensure that there isn’t a cut-and-run operation in Afghanistan, that Nato countries are there and meeting their responsibilities for as long as is necessary.

“I think it is deeply regrettable that the current situation we’re seeing unfold right now has been allowed to develop in the way that it has, but we have to go forward from where we are right now.

“The world has a massive responsibility towards people in Afghanistan and it’s really important that that responsibility is lived up to.”

Asked how many refugees Scotland would accept, Sturgeon said: “I’m hoping those discussions will continue and intensify over the coming days. There’s been some correspondence between myself and Boris Johnson and between my ministers and UK government ministers.

“We don’t yet have a number that Scotland will welcome here, but I hope to get to that as soon as practically possible.

“Scotland stands ready and willing. There’s lots of work to be done — lots of practical arrangements — but as well as living up to our responsibility to give refuge to people fleeing horrific circumstances like those seen in Afghanistan right now, we stand to gain a lot as well.

“Many of the Syrian refugees who came here are contributing massively to Scotland, they’re establishing businesses and working to make a contribution. So this is not just one-way traffic, there are lots of mutual benefits here.”

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