Will the Taliban allow an evacuation extension?
US allies are imploring Biden to extend the August 31 deadline, but any plan hinges upon US resolve and Taliban acceptance of foreign troops on Afghan soil.
In a weeks time the evacuation from Kabul is expected to be over. The mission, headed by the US, has so far been a success, but there are still thousands of people needing to be evacuated and not much time to do it in. The US has refused overtures for extending the date and for their part the Taliban are adamant that they will rebuff any calls to keep NATO troops in Afghanistan into September.
In any case, the decision rests squarely in the hands of President Biden as the Taliban can ill afford an invasion of the airport as they try to build their new state.
The US has evacuated approximately 70,700 people out of Afghanistan since August 14, according to figures released by the White House Tuesday evening.
What have the Taliban said about a possible extension?
The Taliban are defiant that there will be no extension beyond August 31. A spokesperson for the group, Suhail Shaheen, said the deadline for withdrawal of US troops is a "red line".
"If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no," Shaheen told Sky News. He went on to say that there will be "consequences" if the deadline for withdrawal is extended.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid also called on the United States not to encourage Afghan people to leave the country.
Why do US allies want an extension?
Leaders of the G7 nations, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United States and the United Kingdom, met on Tuesday to discuss the unfolding situation in Afghanistan. The British government is fearing that they will be unable to get out all the necessary people in time.
UK defense minister Ben Wallace said on Monday that the evacuation efforts were "down to hours, not weeks." The BBC has been told that there are still 2,000 eligible Afghans from their relocation scheme to be evacuated and the UK government said their evacuation can only go ahead if US forces remained to defend the airport.
German foreign minister Heiko Maas told Bild newspaper, "Even if the deadline is August 31 or is extended by a few days, it will not be enough to evacuate those we want to evacuate and those that the United States wants to evacuate."
"That's why we are working with the United States and Britain to ensure that once the military evacuation is completed it is still possible to fly civilians out of Kabul airport."
Although the speed of evacuations are now high, there are added fears of an attack by the Afghan branch of the Islamic State. No friends of the Taliban, both groups have been engaging in running skirmishes since the declaration of the Emirate in 2014. An added security risk could put the evacuation mission under threat, especially as more and more troops begin to evacuate
Hours after Taliban declared that August 31 would be the redline for US troops to withdraw and evacuation process to end, Taliban has begun forcibly stopping people from traveling to the Kabul airport. This is devastating news at a time when thousands still wait to be rescued.— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) August 24, 2021
Will Biden give them an extension?
August 31 already represents an extension of the original May 1 deadline set out at the Doha summit, where the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was negotiated with the Taliban.
President Biden has been confident that the withdrawal will be completed before the deadline.
Joe Biden confirmed on Tuesday that there will be no extension to the US withdrawal in Afghanistan and that the military was instructed to create contingency plans due to a “growing risk” of security concerns.https://t.co/E4x1tWF4Mn— Twitter Moments (@TwitterMoments) August 25, 2021
“We are currently on pace to finish by August the 31st,” Biden said in his third address on Afghanistan since the country fell to the Taliban.
“In addition, I’ve asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timetable should that become necessary,” Biden said.
Outside foreign pressure, the president has been under attack domestically after comments he made that not every American may get out of Kabul.
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