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      G7 leaders to mull the next Afghan move

      By JONATHAN POWELL in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-08-24 08:59
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      US Marines and Norwegian coalition forces assist with security at an Evacuation Control Checkpoint ensuring evacuees are processed safely during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug 20, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

      US described as 'unreliable' after its 'imbecilic' withdrawal from nation

      Britain's prime minister, Boris Johnson, is expected to press United States' President Joe Biden to keep US troops at Kabul airport beyond Aug 31 in crisis talks on Afghanistan with world leaders on Tuesday.

      Chaos at Kabul airport escalated on the weekend with fears growing around the pace of a mass evacuation and the prospect of mercy flights might be halted.

      The US is set to pull its 6,000 remaining troops out of the country by Aug 31, and the United Kingdom would have to follow, leaving thousands of desperate Afghan citizens behind, because the UK is reliant on US support to retain control of the airport, British media reported.

      The British military is already understood to have extended its deadline to evacuate British and Afghan citizens, from Tuesday to Saturday, in order to help more people, according to The Times.

      The Taliban movement, which now has control of Afghanistan, has tightened its grip around the airport, which is the only route out of the country, The Guardian reported.

      The number of people who have died outside Kabul airport in the past week is at least 20, a NATO official is reported to have said.

      The British government confirmed that 5,725 people have been repatriated since rescue efforts began on Aug 13, with 3,100 of them Afghan individuals and their families. On Sunday, 1,721 people were airlifted from Kabul by the Royal Air Force on eight flights, it said.

      Johnson will lobby for sanctions on the Taliban and an extension to the US evacuation deadline in the virtual meeting with leaders of the G7 group of advanced economies, sources told Reuters.

      Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace have already been urging their US counterparts to continue with the evacuation at Kabul airport, said the Daily Mail.

      Biden said in a media briefing on Sunday that he hoped not to have to extend the evacuation beyond August, despite previously suggesting that the date could be put back.

      The Daily Telegraph reported that UK troops will start to withdraw from Kabul airport within days if Biden refuses to commit to staying longer. It said Britain will turn this week to China and Russia for support amid tensions with the US on how to handle the situation.

      The Financial Times said a meeting of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council-the UK, the US, France, China and Russia-will take place this week.

      The debacle in Afghanistan means that Britain will have to "revisit" the recent review of defense and foreign policy because the US was no longer a reliable ally, said a British minister, quoted anonymously in The Times.

      "America has just signaled to the world that they are not that keen on playing a global role," the minister said. "The implications of that are absolutely huge. We need to get the integrated review out and reread it. We are going to have to do a hard-nosed revisit on all our assumptions and policies."

      Former Labour Party leader and prime minster of the UK, Tony Blair, who sent British troops to Afghanistan in 2001, said at the weekend that the US departure from Afghanistan was based on an "imbecilic political slogan" about ending "the forever wars".

      Writing on his website, Blair accused Biden of making a political decision rather than a strategic one, which would encourage those hostile to the West.

      In broadcast interviews on Sunday, he added: "It's not just about the Afghan people and our obligations to them. It's about us and our security. You have now got this group back in charge of Afghanistan. They will give protection and succour to al-Qaida.

      "You've got ISIS in the country already trying to operate at the same time. You look round the world and the only people really cheering this decision are the people hostile to Western interests."

      When the airport evacuation ends, the UK is planning to establish off shore asylum centers for Afghan refugees in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey, said the defense secretary, Ben Wallace.

      Writing in the Daily Mail on Sunday, Wallace said the UK would establish the hubs across the region out of "an obligation "to Afghan people.

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