1st Apr 2023

Western leaders to lobby Biden on Afghan pull-out delay

  • G7 leaders are expected to commit to coordinate on sanctions and resettlement of asylum seekers (Photo: White House)
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Leaders of the G7, the most advanced economies, will on Tuesday discuss a possible extension of the 31 August deadline for withdrawing US forces to have more time to evacuate people from Afghanistan.

US president Joe Biden is likely to come under pressure particularly from Britain, Italy, France, Germany, and Canada during the video call to extend the stay of US troops to be able to continue evacuations, but it is unlikely that Biden will budge.

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The Taliban has also said it would not allow foreign troops to remain beyond the end of the month.

The manner of US withdrawal after a 20-year US-led effort to root out the Taliban and other extremists in Afghanistan has strained relations between Washington and other Western capitals, where there is dismay at the timing and the way it has been carried out.

On Sunday, the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, acknowledged that it had been a "powerfully emotional time for a lot of allies and partners".

The Taliban seized control of Kabul on 15 August, in a surprisingly swift takeover of the country, prompting a mass evacuation of Western nationals and Afghans who have helped them over the years.

On Monday, the Taliban warned of "consequences" if the US and its allies extended the presence of their troops beyond next week.

EU countries have been worried that they will have to bear the brunt of the consequences of the US decision, with concerns on the rise in Europe over a possible wave of asylum-seekers from Afghanistan.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson, who holds the rotating presidency of wealthy nations, has called for the virtual meeting of the US, Britain, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, and Japan to mend those divisions to some extent.

G7 leaders are expected to pledge unity on whether or not to officially recognise or sanction the Taliban.

Johnson will stress a unified approach on the talks, which will also include Nato secretary-general Jen Stoltenberg and UN secretary-general António Guterres.

"We want to start the process of developing a clear plan, so that we can all deal with the new Afghan regime in a unified and concerted way," Karen Pierce, Britain's envoy to the US told Reuters. "We will judge the new regime by actions, not words."

G7 countries will try to use the leverage of recognition to push the Taliban to respect human rights, women's rights, and their international obligations.

G7 leaders will also commit to coordinate any sanctions and resettlement of asylum seekers.

Germany will press G7 partners to commit additional funds for humanitarian aid, German foreign minister Heiko Maas said on Monday.

"I believe the G7 countries should live up to their responsibilities and find a response to mitigate the acute humanitarian hardship that's already prevalent in the region and that will increase over the coming weeks," he said.

Johnson is also expected to urge international partners to match the UK's commitments on aid and the resettlement of vulnerable Afghans.

The UK has doubled the amount of humanitarian aid to the region, up to €335m (£286m), and last week set up a program to relocate 20,000 Afghans.

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