UK to push US to extend Afghan evacuation deadline as relations fray

·2-min read
The British (left) and US military have been working together to evacuate people out of Afghanistan (MoD) (PA Media)
The British (left) and US military have been working together to evacuate people out of Afghanistan (MoD) (PA Media)

The UK will offer its “complete support” to the US if Joe Biden opts to extend the deadline for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan after the evacuation situation in Kabul worsened.

It comes as the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said seven Afghan civilians had died in the chaotic crowds outside the city’s international airport.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace in what is likely to be read as a plea to Washington, said “no nation will be able to get everyone out” of the Taliban-controlled country, with the US president’s August 31 target date making the rescue mission even more time pressured.

Writing for the Mail on Sunday, the Cabinet minister said: “If the US timetable remains, we have no time to lose to get the majority of the people waiting out.

“Perhaps the Americans will be permitted to stay longer, and they will have our complete support if they do.”

Relations between the UK and US are under strain, with former prime minister Tony Blair – who was in Downing Street when Britain sent troops into Afghanistan 20 years ago in the wake of 9/11 – accusing Mr Biden of deciding to pull out of the central Asian country with “little or no consultation”, branding the move “imbecilic”.

According to the Sunday Times, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab – who is once again in the spotlight over his decision to remain on holiday as the Taliban advanced on Kabul – is seeking to speak to his opposite number, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, to discuss extending the end-of-the-month deadline.

It comes as the situation around Kabul airport took a turn for the worse, with The Independent reporting that four Afghan women were crushed to death on Saturday as they sought to access the airfield where military repatriation flights are leaving from.

 (PA Wire)
(PA Wire)

Mr Wallace confirmed there were “too many people in the airport” on Saturday, forcing the US side of the operation to suspend access.

A MoD spokeswoman stressed that neither UK flights nor processing were affected by the pause, however.

In a separate statement on Sunday, an MoD spokesperson confirmed the deaths of seven people in the airport’s crowds and added: “Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible.”

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