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Biden to stick with August 31 deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan: Report

G-7 calls for safe passage of foreigners, Afghan partners from the country

USA-WEATHER/TEXAS-BIDEN US President Joe Biden | Reuters

With just a week to go before the United States’ deadline to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden has decided to stick with this timeline despite concerns over the hasty nature of the withdrawal—done under the nose of the very force the US intervened in Afghanistan to remove.

According to a CNN report citing a senior Biden administration official, the US will stick with the August 31 deadline. This comes as the Taliban have maintained they will not accept any postponement of the deadline, with one spokesman even threatening “consequences” if the deadline was not met.

Biden's decision was in line with the Pentagon's own recommendation, Reuters reported. The decision was made “mindful of the security risks in remaining in the country longer,” the official told CNN. The US has been flying tens of thousands of people out of Afghanistan as it tries to get both American and the Afghan locals who supported the US regime—putting themselves at risk of being killed by the Taliban—out of the country.

On Tuesday, there was also a report that the CIA director met with the de facto Taliban leader.

September 11, 2021, will mark 20 years since the attacks on the World Trade Centre, which kicked off the United States’ “War on Terror” and subsequently its War in Afghanistan, that become the country’s longest conflict ever. Biden’s decision to pull US troops from the country was made with this date in mind.

Biden has just come out of a Group of 7 (G-7) talk with fellow Western allies, who called for safe passage of foreigners and Afghan partners out of the Afghanistan.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who chaired the meeting in the UK's role as current president of the Group of Seven, told reporters after the talks that the leaders had agreed a "roadmap" for future engagement with the Taliban.

 While the joint statement indicates that an agreement on an extension to the August 31 deadline of the US-led NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan failed to materialise, Johnson declared that the G7's "number one condition" was that the Taliban must guarantee "safe passage" for those that want to leave the country beyond that deadline.

 He also insisted that the G7 made up of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the UK had considerable leverage at its disposal.

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

 "Some will say that they don't accept that and some, I hope, will see the sense of that, because the G7 has very considerable leverage economic, diplomatic and political," he said.

 Johnson, alongside France and Germany, was expected to push US President Joe Biden to focus on an extension of the deadline with the Taliban. However, American media reports indicate that Biden remains firm on the month-end timeline, even as the latest Taliban press conference from Kabul dismissed the prospect of an extension.

 "Our immediate priority is to ensure the safe evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have partnered with us and assisted our efforts over the past 20 years, and to ensure continuing safe passage out of Afghanistan," reads the G7 joint statement issued at the end of the virtual summit.

 "We will continue to coordinate closely on this, and we expect all parties to continue to facilitate this, and to ensure the safety of humanitarian and medical personnel, and other international service providers. We will cooperate together, and with neighbouring and other countries in the region hosting refugees, on a coordinated approach to safe and legal routes for resettlement, it reads.

 The statement expresses "grave concern" about the situation in Afghanistan and calls for calm and restraint to ensure the safety and security of vulnerable Afghan and international citizens, and the prevention of a humanitarian crisis. It also calls for all parties to work towards an "inclusive and representative government" which will work to ensure regional stability.

 "The Afghan people deserve to live in dignity, peace and security, reflecting the last two decades of their political, economic and social achievements, in particular for women and girls. Afghanistan must never again become a safe haven for terrorism, nor a source of terrorist attacks on others, the statement notes.

 It concludes: "We will work together, and with our allies and regional countries, through the UN, G20 and more widely, to bring the international community together to address the critical questions facing Afghanistan.

 "As we do this, we will judge the Afghan parties by their actions, not words. In particular, we reaffirm that the Taliban will be held accountable for their actions on preventing terrorism, on human rights in particular those of women, girls and minorities and on pursuing an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan. The legitimacy of any future government depends on the approach it now takes to uphold its international obligations and commitments to ensure a stable Afghanistan."

With inputs from PTI

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