UK: Given Biden and Taliban Comments, Afghan Extension Seems Unlikely

Passengers evacuated from Afghanistan disembark from a British Royal Air Force (RAF) Airbus KC2 Voyager aircraft, after landing at RAF Brize Norton station in southern England on August 24, 2021. - Britain said on August 23 it would urge the United States to extend an end-of-the-month deadline for evacuations from …
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The British Defence Secretary has said despite his desire to get more time to effect the Kabul airlift-evacuation, the chances of the deadline for Western withdrawal on August 31st is “unlikely” to be pushed back given the main actors — the United States and the Taliban — are not interested in an extension.

Speaking to UK broadcast outlets on Tuesday, Ben Wallace —  a regular on British television since the Afghan government and defence forces collapsing like a house of cards apparently took Western governments by surprise — lamented the state of affairs but concluded ultimately there was nothing the United Kingdom could do about it.

While the British armed forces maintain a much diminished independent expeditionary capability, in reality it is not able to continue operations in Afghanistan independently. While the U.S. had said it would withdraw its forces from Afghanistan in concert with partners, in practice this appears to have not happened and the pace of collapse, with the Taliban filling the vacuum left by America taking the UK by surprise.

As a consequence, the British — and other Western nations — have been left scrambling to evacuate thousands of their countrymen and Afghan employees given assurances of protection in the dying days of U.S. occupation. But as the UK leadership has repeatedly hinted, the time left to the August 31st deadline is not enough to affect a full evacuation and some people may be “left behind”.

Speaking Tuesday morning, Wallace reflected this situation when he said “I wish we had more time” and that every extra day in Afghanistan “would be a big bonus”, but said it was ultimately unlikely that anything would now change.

The defence minister told the BBC: ” I think at the moment it is unlikely, I’ve seen the statements of President Biden, of the Taliban, but we have to plan on the 31st of August being the last moment. Every day we get after that would be a big bonus…. we are only there to evacuate people, there are no ulterior motives. The Taliban and others should not fear that we are there [for any other reason].”

He said he believed “the Taliban were pretty clear” they would not countenance an extension in Western deployments in their comments yesterday.

Wallace’s views notwithstanding, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson emerged from the emergency G7 meeting he hosted Tuesday afternoon claiming the group of wealthy nations had agreed a plan to bring the Taliban to heel. Johnson explained that the G7, whose members just this month had comprehensively failed to prevent the Taliban from taking over Afghanistan despite 20 years of expensively bought nation-building, would use its “very considerable leverage, economic, diplomatic and political” to force the terror group to comply with demands.

Chief among them, he said, would be that the Taliban will “guarantee right the way through, through August 31 and beyond, safe passage for those who want to come out [of the country]”.

Johnson continued: “What we’re saying is Afghanistan can’t lurch back into becoming a breeding ground of terror, Afghanistan can’t become a narco-state, girls have got to be educated up to the age of 18”, Reuters reports.

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