London wants to convince Biden to stay in Kabul as long as necessary
Sylvie Claire / August 21, 2021
The British government is trying to convince U.S. President Joe Biden to extend beyond the end of August the evacuation operation launched in Kabul to exfiltrate thousands of people, foreign nationals and Afghans threatened by the Taliban takeover, the newspaper The Times reported Saturday, citing government sources.
The United States launched a massive evacuation operation on August 14, taking control of Kabul International Airport, the only way out of Afghanistan, as thousands of American and Afghan civilians try to flee the country after the Taliban returned to power. But in a brief televised address Monday, Biden firmly defended his decision to withdraw U.S. troops from the country, where they have been fighting for two decades, by Aug. 31. Washington's allies are pressing the U.S. administration to keep its troops there beyond that date. According to the Times, the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson fears that thousands of people entitled to be evacuated will be abandoned to their fate after the Americans leave.
This would mainly concern Afghans who have worked for Western troops in the country, such as interpreters or fixers, and employees of human rights organizations and NGOs. They risk being persecuted by the Taliban. The British are therefore hoping to convince the United States, a traditional ally, to stay in Kabul beyond August 31 if necessary. The U.K. has so far evacuated 2,400 people from Kabul and hopes to maintain a daily rate of about 1,000 people, thanks to the intensive use of its U.S.-built C-17 transport planes. Belgian Foreign Minister Sophie Wilmès said Friday at a meeting of Nato foreign ministers that she had insisted that Washington take over protection of the airport until evacuation operations were completed.