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World

Taliban say no evacuation extension as G7 meets on Afghan crisis

  • The group seeks to assure thousands of Afghans crowded into Kabul airport in the hope of boarding flights they have nothing to fear and should go home
Published August 24, 2021
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Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers said on Tuesday they wanted all foreign evacuations from the country completed by the August 31 deadline and they would not agree to an extension.

The Taliban group sought to assure the thousands of Afghans crowded into Kabul airport in the hope of boarding flights they had nothing to fear and should go home.

"We guarantee their security," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference in the capital, which Taliban fighters seized on Aug. 15.

As he spoke, Western troops were working frantically to get foreigners and Afghans onto planes and out of the country. US President Joe Biden faced growing pressure to negotiate more time for the airlift.

Chaos punctuated by sporadic violence has gripped the airport following the Taliban's rapid takeover of the country.

CIA director met Taliban leader in Afghanistan on Monday: report

Leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) countries - Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States - were due to meet virtually later on Tuesday to discuss the crisis.

CIA Director William Burns met Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul on Monday, two US sources told Reuters.

The Taliban's Mujahid said the group had not agreed to an extension of the deadline and it wanted all foreign evacuations to be completed by Aug. 31.

He also called on the United States not to encourage Afghan people to leave their homeland.

The Taliban wanted to resolve the situation through dialogue, he said, and he urged foreign embassies not to close or stop work.

"We have assured them of security," he said.

Deadline looms

Countries that have evacuated nearly 60,000 people over the past 10 days were trying to meet the deadline agreed earlier with the Taliban for the withdrawal of foreign forces, a NATO diplomat told Reuters.

"Every foreign force member is working at a war-footing pace to meet the deadline," said the official, who declined to be identified.

Biden, who has said US troops might stay beyond the deadline, has warned the evacuation was going to be "hard and painful" and much could still go wrong.

Biden vows 'devastating' response if Taliban attack US interests

Democratic US Representative Adam Schiff, chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, told reporters he did not believe the evacuation could be completed in the days remaining.

"It's possible but I think it's very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated," Schiff said.

British defence minister Ben Wallace told Sky News he was doubtful there would be a deadline extension. But German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany was working with the United States and Britain to ensure the NATO allies can fly civilians out after the deadline.

"Even if the deadline is Aug. 31 or is extended by a few days, it will not be enough to evacuate those we want to evacuate and those that the United States wants to evacuate," Maas told Bild newspaper.

"That's why we are working with the United States and Britain to ensure that once the military evacuation is completed it is still possible to fly civilians out of Kabul airport."

Red line

The frantic evacuation operation kicked off after the Taliban seized Kabul on Aug. 15 and the US-backed government collapsed as the United States and its allies withdrew troops after a 20-year presence.

The group had been ousted by US-led forces in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States by al Qaeda militants whose leaders had found safe haven in Afghanistan.

US ramps up Afghan evacuations after Taliban warn of 'red line'

Seeking to ease such fears, Taliban spokesman Mujahid said it was trying to come up with a procedure so women could return to work.

He also said there was no list of people targeted for reprisals.

"We have forgotten everything in the past," he said.

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