US urged to extend Afghanistan evacuation timeline as it brings in commercial flights to help

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British armed forces personnel working with the US on evacuations (MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Im)
British armed forces personnel working with the US on evacuations (MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Im)

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has asked his US counterpart to push for an extension of the Afghanistan evacuation window beyond August 31.

The news came as Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he would convene G7 leaders for “urgent” talks on Tuesday.

“It’s vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years,” he said in a tweet.

Armed forces minister James Heappey, speaking earlier on Sunday, said Mr Raab had made “representations to his opposite number and to the secretary of defence and likewise” and that if the evacuation was extended “then there is the opportunity to continue with flights”.

The Ministry of Defence said British armed forces have evacuated nearly 4,000 people from Afghanistan since August 13, the majority of whom are assumed to be Afghans who have helped Britain over the past 20 years.

Mr Heappey said, however, an evacuation extension was not clear cut as “the Taliban get a vote in that too”.

“It's not just a decision made in Washington, and so I think it's important to make another point which is people shouldn't despair that whenever the airbridge, the military airbridge, ends, that that is the end of their chances with leaving Afghanistan.

"The Home Secretary has announced that there will be other routes into the resettlement programme from around the wider region, through maybe handling centres in refugee camps, through embassies, through high commissions."

"Our Armed Forces continue to work tirelessly at Kabul Airport to ensure the safe evacuation of British nationals and Afghan civilians," the ministry said in a statement on Twitter.

It comes as the Pentagon said it is formally seeking airlift help from commercial airlines to relocate evacuees from Afghanistan once they have are out of the country.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has asked for 18 aircraft: three each from American Airlines, Atlas Air, Delta Air Lines and Omni Air; two from Hawaiian Airlines; and four from United Airlines.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said the Department does not anticipate a major impact to commercial flights.

According to Kirby, those aircraft will not fly into Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.

They will be used to move passengers from locations once they leave Kabul, allowing the US military to focus on the Afghanistan portion of the evacuation.

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