G-7 leaders can not get Biden to postpone Afghanistan’s withdrawal

WASHINGTON (AP) – The United States, along with some of its closest allies, encountered President Joe Bidens’ insistence on sticking to a withdrawal date on August 31 in Afghanistan, which will shut down a hectic international evacuation effort by the Taliban regime.

Biden insisted after virtual talks with leaders of the group of seven industrialized democracies on Tuesday that the United States and its closest allies would “stand shoulder to shoulder” in future actions over Afghanistan and the Taliban, despite disappointing them in their urgent prayers now about giving time for more air bridges.

The US president was adamant that the risk of terrorist attacks was too great to meet calls from G-7 leaders to keep what are now 5,800 US troops at Kabul airport beyond the end of the month and anchor the airlifts.

Britain and other allies whose troops escorted U.S. forces into Afghanistan nearly 20 years ago to deal with the plots of the 9/11 attacks on the United States had urged Biden to keep U.S. forces at Kabul airport longer. No country would be able to evacuate all their citizens and vulnerable Afghan allies by the August 31 deadline, Allied officials had said.

“We will continue right up until the last minute we can,” said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had openly lobbied to maintain the airport’s presence after 31 August. Johnson acknowledged that he was unable to persuade Biden to expand the U.S. military. presence in Tuesday’s talks.

“But you have heard what the President of the United States has had to say, you have heard what the Taliban have said,” he said.

A senior French official, speaking anonymously in accordance with the usual practice of the French presidency, said President Emmanuel Macron had pressed for an extension of the August 31 deadline but would “adapt” to the US sovereign decision. “It’s in American hands,” he said.

In a partial unity, G7 leaders agreed on the conditions for recognizing and dealing with a future Taliban-led Afghan government, but there was a tangible disappointment that Biden could not be persuaded to extend the US operation at Kabul airport to ensure that tens of thousands of Americans, Europeans, other third-country nationals and all vulnerable Afghans can be evacuated.

The meeting between the leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States served not only as a book support for the West’s 20-year involvement in Afghanistan, which began as a response to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, but also a resigned acknowledgment from European powers that the United States calls shots.

“Our immediate priority is to ensure the safe evacuation of our citizens and the Afghans who have cooperated with us and helped our efforts over the past twenty years, and to ensure continued safe passage out of Afghanistan,” the leaders said in a joint statement. declaration. did not address exactly how they would guarantee continued safe passage without any military presence.

Going forward, the leaders said they would “judge the Afghan parties on the basis of their actions, not words”, echoing previous warnings to the Taliban not to return to the strict Islamic form of government they ran when they last held power from 1996 until US-led invasion that drove them out in 2001.

“In particular, we reaffirm that the Taliban will be held accountable for their actions in preventing terrorism, on human rights, especially the rights of women, girls and minorities, and for pursuing an inclusive political solution in Afghanistan,” the leaders said. “The legitimacy of any future government depends on the approach it now takes to maintain its international commitments and commitments to ensure a stable Afghanistan.”

Yet individual leaders offered less bizarre descriptions of the meeting as well as the state of affairs in Afghanistan, which has changed dramatically since the bloc last met in Britain in June. At the time of that summit, Afghanistan had almost been an afterthought with leaders more concentrated on the coronavirus pandemic, China and Russia. Although Biden had announced his plan for a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Cornwall meeting did not foresee the Taliban’s rapid takeover.

“I want to emphasize again that, of course, the United States has the leadership here,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin after the meeting. “Without the United States, for example, we – the others – cannot continue the evacuation mission.”

On Monday, CIA chief William Burns met with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul in talks in which the Taliban stressed that they would not accept a US military presence at the airport after 31 August.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Tuesday that his group would accept “no extension” of the deadline.

The G-7 leaders were also joined by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, UN Secretary-General António Guterres and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.

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AP writers Nomaan Merchant in Washington, Jonathan Lemire in Lowell, Mass., Sylvie Corbet in Paris, Ellen Knickmeyer in Oklahoma City and Frank Jordans in Berlin, contributed to this report.

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