As the August 31 withdrawal deadline draws closer, the UK’s secretary of state for defence has stated that an extended evacuation period is “unlikely” amid growing security risks after Taliban warnings on not observing this date.
Speaking on Tuesday to Sky news, Britain’s Secretary of State for Defence Secretary Ben Wallace cast doubt on whether a withdrawal of troops from Kabul past the August 31 is on the cards, “not only because of what the Taliban has said but also … the public statements of President Biden, I think it is unlikely.” However, the defence secretary stated that it was worth trying.
Wallace also stated that as the deadline approaches “the security risk goes up, it gets more and more dangerous”, explaining that “other terrorist groups like ISIS would like to be seen taking credit [and] would like to be seen chasing the West out of Afghanistan”.
The defence secretary admitted that “the scale of the challenge means that not everyone will get out” of Afghanistan. According to Wallace, the fate of the evacuation mission past August 31 is dependent mostly on Washington and the insurgent group: “The two people with the biggest vote in the room are the US… and the Taliban.”
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UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to hold a meeting later on Tuesday with G7 leaders on the situation in Afghanistan and its policy co-ordination. It is expected that Downing Street will ask for more time to remain in Afghanistan to facilitate with the evacuation process.
Taliban spokesperson Muhammad Suhail Shaheen on Monday declined the UK’s request for an extension for removing all of its troops, calling the original date a “red line.” The insurgent group had previously warned that US and British troops not adhering to the August 31 deadline would provoke a reaction, yet did not detail what such a response could be.
Speaking on Sunday, Biden hinted that discussion in the White House touched on the possibility of prolonging the evacuation window, yet hoped that an extension would not be necessary.
Since August 14, a day before Kabul fell to the Taliban, the UK has managed to evacuate around 8,600 people, with 2,000 evacuated in the last 24 hours.
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