Tuesday 24 August 2021 11:57 am

Afghanistan: G7 leaders prepare for emergency meeting as evacuation deadline looms

G7 leaders are under pressure to present a united front at an emergency meeting this afternoon on the crisis in Afghanistan.

Leaders of the UK, US, Canada, France, Italy, Germany and Japan are to discuss how to coordinate their response to the crisis.

The online talks chaired by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will also focus on how to support the Afghan people.

Nato secretary general Jen Stoltenberg and UN secretary general António Guterres will also be present.

The meeting comes amid desperate scenes in Afghanistan as Western powers scramble to evacuate people from Kabul, since the Taliban seized power in the country on August 15th.

A statement released ahead of the meeting by Johnson’s office said he will urge his counterparts to step up support for refugees and humanitarian aid and “agree on a joint approach for the longer term”.

“Together with our partners and allies, we will continue to use every humanitarian and diplomatic lever to safeguard human rights and protect the gains made over the last two decades. The Taliban will be judged by their deeds and not their words,” Johnson said.

US President Joe Biden is under pressure to extend his self-imposed August 31st deadline for the final withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan, ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11.

The US allies are pushing for an extension that would ensure the evacuation of foreign nationals and Afghans who have worked for and with them since 2001. Yet, the US is adamant to stick to its timeline.

UK defence secretary Ben Wallace has said extending the evacuation operation beyond next week is “unlikely”. He warned the Taliban could close Kabul airport.

“Not only because of what the Taliban has said but if you look at the public statements of President Biden I think it is unlikely,” he told Sky News.

The Taliban spokesperson said there would be consequences if the evacuation effort continued into September.

Once US troops have withdrawn from Kabul airport, it would not be practical for the UK to secure the airfield and continue the evacuation effort on its own.

“As we get closer to the deadline I think it’s correct to say the security risk goes up,” said Wallace.

Extending the deadline would depend on Taliban cooperation and US backing, MP Tom Tugendhat told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme.

The discussions at the G7 meeting are expected to focus on whether to impose sanctions or officially recognise the Taliban to avoid a humanitarian crisis and protect those vulnerable under their regime.

Ahead of the emergency summit, China has said imposing sanctions on the Taliban would be “counterproductive”.