Crescent Kashmir

G7 seeks Taliban ‘guarantee’ on safe passage from Kabul after Aug 31

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LONDON: The Taliban must “guarantee” safe passage for those fleeing Afghanistan beyond the current August 31 evacuation deadline, the G7 agreed on Tuesday, according to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Johnson, who convened the emergency meeting, said that he and his colleagues had agreed “a roadmap for the way in which we’re going to engage with the Taliban” in the future.

But he added that the “number one condition” was “to guarantee… through August 31 and beyond, a safe passage for those who want to come out.” The UK chaired the emergency talks among the group of wealthy countries on Tuesday, saying it would urge Biden to extend his August 31 deadline to pull American forces out of Afghanistan. France also called on Washington to push back the timeline.

However, Biden decided after the G7 talks that he would stick to the deadline, US media reported.

Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said earlier it was “unlikely” evacuations from Afghanistan would be extended beyond August 31.

A spokesman for the Taliban on Monday warned that the hardline Islamist group would not agree to any extension, calling the issue a “red line”, with any delay viewed as “extending occupation”.

“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News.

Britain has continued to evacuate Western citizens and some Afghans from the capital, with Wallace warning the security situation was getting “more and more dangerous” as August 31 approaches.

The defence ministry said 8,458 people have been evacuated by the UK since August 13, with nine military flights leaving Kabul in the last 24 hours.

More than half — 5,171 — are Afghans eligible to relocate to Britain under its programme to protect those who aided its military and civilian officials during their two-decade involvement in Afghanistan.

Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2021

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