G7 Leaders Press The U.S. To Extend The Kabul Evacuation Deadline

On Monday, 23 August, almost 11,000 people evacuated Kabul, Afghanistan, where Taliban militants seized control over a week ago. ​Thousands of Afghans and foreigners are making their way to Kabul’s airport in hopes of fleeing the Taliban. United States President Joe Biden was expected to decide on extending the 31 August deadline to airlift Americans and their allies to safety. ​​On the 24th, he decided not to extend the deadline, despite pressure by G7 leaders. Western nations struggle to bring home their citizens while aiding Afghan citizens stuck at Kabul’s airport. 

The Independent reports that an emergency G7 meeting is being initiated by British prime minister Boris Johnson to push Biden on the issue. He and other leaders argue that extending the deadline would allow for more evacuation flights with less risk to Afghan civilians. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the U.S. speaks daily with the Taliban and is making “enormous progress” in evacuating Americans and others. He also said the president “will make his determinations as we go.”

U.S. officials said it would take several days to remove the nearly 6,000 troops at the airport. Various international authorities voiced their opinion. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian emphasized how more time is needed for evacuating citizens. Democratic U.S. Representative Adam Schiff expressed disbelief that the evacuation would be completed in the eight remaining days. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas underlined how the G7 nations must agree on the deadline and importance of improving the airport’s access. However, Prime Minister Johnson explained that he and Biden agreed to collaborate on ensuring all those eligible to leave Afghanistan are able to do so, even after the initial evacuation phase ends.  

The emergency meeting prompted all states to take action and unite against the Taliban. The main goals were coordinating the response to the immediate crisis, reaffirming the commitment to the Afghan people, and asking international partners to support those in need. According to Boris Johnson, G7 leaders are expected to reaffirm the vow to safeguard gains made in Afghanistan over the past 20 years, particularly around women’s rights.

After a chaotic start, the pace of evacuations has recently increased, and must be maintained. Joe Biden has faced widespread criticism for his handling of the withdrawal, especially after stating the evacuation deadline would not extend. Afghanistan’s situation calls for urgent measures. Troop withdrawal or not, international forces must resolve to safely evacuate people in need. 

Thousands of Afghan citizens have gathered at the airport since the situation escalated, hoping to catch any flight out. Many fear returning to a harsh version of Islamic law that the Taliban enforced while in power from 1996 to 2001. The withdrawal of U.S troops has sparked Afghanistan’s conflict, and Biden’s policy has been widely analyzed and criticized.

As reported by The New York Times, there are mainly two issues with the policy. The first critique blames the administration for not clearing bureaucratic obstacles that kept Afghan allies waiting for visas, possibly stranding tens of thousands who deserved to be evacuated. However, the second blames Biden for losing a war that was lost years ago. It is often assumed that America’s presence in Afghanistan was doing more good than harm. This was true for some citizens, particularly in the capital where American troops tried to protect those most vulnerable to the Taliban’s theocratic barbarism.

However, it is essential to recognize that America’s remaining in Afghanistan, would force Biden to renege on President Donald Trump’s deal with the Taliban. This would require extended fighting and airstrikes, which would lead to more suffering, destruction, and internal displacement. Furthermore, The New York Times explains that lack of planning and knowledge at the local level has often meant projects intended to mitigate conflict exacerbated it, and even inadvertently funded insurgents. 

Afghan citizens currently wait at Kabul’s airport, seeking to flee Afghanistan as political instability rapidly increases. While thousands of people were airlifted out of the country, many are still fighting for their human rights and safety, knowing that Taliban control will bring misery. Many are losing hope for the future.

There was never a logical way for the U.S. to leave Afghanistan, which is why the war was fought for 20 years. Now, Biden indicates there is no practical way to stay. The situation’s complexity requires international forces to come together to get Afghan citizens to safety. The Taliban are not stopping, and it is critical for the G7, European leaders, veterans groups, and other refugee organizations to peacefully evacuate citizens and support refugees with asylums. 

Olivia Berntsson