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France has joined the UK in calling for the United
States to delay the withdrawal of its forces beyond 31 August.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le
Drian told reporters: “We are concerned about the deadline set by the United
States on 31 August. Additional time is needed to complete ongoing operations.”
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson will ask the US for an extension at an emergency
meeting of the G7 tomorrow in order to allow evacuation flights to continue.
It is generally considered that other allied forces would be unable to maintain a presence at Kabul airport without US troops on the ground.
The Taliban say they will not extend the deadline for Western forces to leave Afghanistan.
Spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the BBC's Yalda Hakim that 31 August was a red line and that any extension would be a "clear violation" of the Doha agreement between the United States and the Taliban.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to request that US troops remain at Kabul airport past the 31 August deadline at Tuesday's virtual meeting of G7 leaders.
India is continuing efforts to evacuate citizens from Afghanistan.
A group of 146 stranded Indians, who were initially evacuated to Doha, arrived in Delhi on Monday.
Some 168 were also airlifted from Kabul on Sunday. The group reportedly included 24 Afghan Sikhs and Hindus, two of whom were MPs in Afghanistan's now-fallen government.
Their evacuation came amid reports that dozens from the religious minorities were earlier stopped from boarding flights at the weekend.
"All achievements of the last 20 years in Afghanistan have been lost. Nothing is left. It's zero now," said Afghan MP Narinder Singh Khalsa after landing in India, according to The Indian Express newspaper.
Read more about the evacuations here
Downing Street says the UK’s evacuation efforts will continue
as long as it is safe to do so.
It comes after a Taliban spokesman said that British
and American troops staying in Afghanistan past 31 August would be crossing a
Asked about the comments, the prime minister's
official spokesman said: "I've seen the reports. I don't think we've had
any direct communication to that end.
"We will continue to run our
evacuation process as long as the security situation allows."
He added that the issue would be included in discussions
with G7 leaders tomorrow.
The Panjshir region - in particular the Panjshir Valley - is famous for having successfully fought off invasions, including from Soviet forces during the Soviet-Afghan war from 1979 to 1989, and the Taliban in the 1990s.
The region is now under the control of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF), which was founded by Ahmad Massoud - the son of Afghan resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Ahmad Shah Massoud was a powerful guerrilla commander who led the resistance against the USSR, and then went on to lead the Afghan government's military wing against rival militias in the 1990s.
After the Taliban gained control, he was the main opposition commander against their rule, until his assassination in 2001.
The NRF's ultimate goal is a decentralised form of governance in the country.
The Taliban are urging Afghan people to stay and rebuild their country but will not stand in the way of those who want to leave, if they have the correct documentation, a spokesman has told the BBC.
Suhail Shaheen said people could still leave on commercial flights after the deadline for foreign troops to leave by 31 August.
He said: "We are not putting hurdles in their way if they have a passport issued - they can go on commercial flights at any time. We want them to stay in the country but if they intend to go, they can... if they have the proper documents."
But he stressed there would be "consequences" if the foreign forces stayed beyond 31 August. He did not elaborate on what this would mean, saying only that the Taliban leadership would decide.
G7 members will meet virtually tomorrow to discuss whether to try to extend the 31 August deadline amid chaotic scenes at Kabul airport.
BBC Security Correspondent
Copyright: Getty Images
There are two underlying threats to the ongoing evacuation at Kabul airport.
The most immediate one comes from IS, the Islamic State group. IS is no friend of the Taliban and they have already fought clashes with them in the recent past.
US intelligence picked up threat reporting over the weekend of a possible planned IS suicide attack at the airport, hence the US warning to avoid the airport unless you have valid travel documents.
The second threat is that the Taliban could lose patience with this entire operation which does not show them in a good light at all. So far, they have been cooperative but they have made it clear there can be no extension beyond the 31 August deadline as they view any Western military forces in Afghanistan as an "occupation".
Should the US or its allies try to stay on after the deadline without an agreement with the Taliban, that would bring an extreme risk of attack or violent disruption.
BBC Radio 4
Former Greek foreign minister Georgios Katrougalos tells the BBC that the European Union needs to “adopt a quota” for the settlement of Afghan refugees across member states.
Katrougalos says the EU has failed "to adopt a fair and efficient migration policy" and says it needs to adopt its own "autonomous foreign policy" rather than "following the Americans".
"We are an economic giant, but on issues of foreign policy we clearly did not play this role", he says.
"This is going to be also a test on how Europe can also show to the world that we can act also morally, not just having in mind our self-interests."
An anti-Taliban resistance group has said it has thousands of people ready to fight.
The BBC has not independently verified this claim, which was made by Ali Nazary, the head of foreign relations for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRF).
Mr Nazary told the BBC in an interview that the group had "thousands of forces ready for the resistance" but wanted to pursue peaceful negotiations first.
"If this fails... then we're not going to accept any sort of aggression," he said.
It comes as the Taliban say they have surrounded the group's Panjshir valley stronghold and put them under siege.
Resistance figures have also said the Taliban are now advancing in the region, which is northeast of the capital Kabul.
Delaying the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan would be “great
in the short term” but world leaders also need to think more longer term, says Rory Stewart, who used to be the UK's international development secretary.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to ask US President
Joe Biden to give US forces more time to leave Afghanistan, at an emergency gathering of leaders from the G7
However, Stewart told the BBC that the G7 must also think
about the next “two to five years in Afghanistan”.
“As the United States and Britain withdraw, we’re creating
a vacuum and a lot of other countries are going to come into that – Pakistan,
Iran, China, Russia will start providing funding to the Taliban as we leave.
“We’re going to end up with many, many refugees. Last time
around when the Taliban took over, there were nearly four million refugees.”
He urged Mr Johnson to consider how countries could provide
support for refugees, as well as assistance for charities
and agencies still operating “on the ground” in Afghanistan.
Several thousand Afghan interpreters and other staff who worked
for British forces are eligible
to come to the UK, but many are stuck at Kabul airport as they attempt to flee
One man - who cannot be named to protect his security because he worked with the British
forces as an interpreter - told the BBC he was trapped in the crowds outside the
he had been waiting almost 12 hours at the gate for British interpreters.
with my children, with my wife but there's no way for us to go in and ask
someone what's happening with us, with my case.
“There are hundreds of other interpreters and their lives are in danger and their futures
are very uncertain. So I think we are in hell.
you're waiting for 14 or 15 hours without water, without food.
reason why you are suffering all this, because you worked for British army,
because you worked for foreigners."
The World Health Organization (WHO) warned Monday that more than 500 tonnes of medical supplies due for delivery in Afghanistan are stuck outside of the country due to chaos at Kabul airport.
Aid officials say the supplies, including surgical equipment and malnutrition kits, are needed to help hundreds of thousands of people displaced by recent violence.
Thousands of people have left the country in recent days, but commercial flights have ceased.
"While the eyes of the world now are on the people being
evacuated and the planes leaving, we need to get supplies in to
help those who are left behind," WHO spokeswoman Inas Hamam
said in a statement to Reuters.
The UN health organisation wants empty planes to divert to Dubai to pick up supplies on their way to pick up refugees.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace warned on Monday that the UK must "exploit every minute” to get people out of Kabul as the window to help closes.
Copyright: European Pressphoto Agency
A week after the Taliban takeover of the country, many Afghans are uncertain of what it will mean for their lives and their safety. A young female student shared her fears about her future. The BBC is not identifying her to protect her safety.
"Fear has taken over my whole being, and as the days pass, I can feel how hope fades away from within me. It gets replaced with frustration. All I can see is darkness, uncertainty, and a not-so-bright future.
"I will be killed, certainly. I have reasons to be...
"I have witnessed so many hurdles in my life, many that no other girl would be able to tolerate. I could manage to overcome them, but this...
"Hey world, do you care what happens here? Do we matter to you? Do you see us? Do you?
"For those who are listening, for those who care, I am writing this. I am saying this. We are suffering here, we are being left behind.
"If you are listening to us, help us. Help us survive, and once again believe in light and rise; stronger than before. We want our country back. Want our people to live the way they want, the way they deserve.
"Hey world, hey people living out there, lucky you! I envy the life you live."
Read more here.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Muhammad Suhail Shaheen, has spoken with the BBC amid reports the UK will press for a deadline extension for international evacuations beyond 31 August.
"Foreign forces should withdraw on the deadline they have announced earlier. Otherwise, it is a clear violation," Mr Shaheen said.
The spokesman added the Taliban's reaction to such a move would be a decision for the group's leadership.
Thousands of Afghans are continuing to try and flee the country ahead of the end-of-the-month deadline, with many citing fear of life under Taliban rule.
It is unclear whether international flights will be allowed in and out of the country once international forces leave and cease control of the airport.
BBC defence correspondent
Behind the scenes Britain has been pushing the US for an extension of the Kabul airlift. Not for long – just a few days.
That short time would allow evacuation flights to continue for most of this week, while giving the military a few extra days next week to pack up and leave. Military planners in the Ministry of Defence estimate they need 24 to 36 hours to fold up the operation and get every soldier out.
Hopes of an extension still appear slim, not least because of the Taliban.
Some have asked why the UK and allies could not stay longer without the US. But the US is providing the bulk of the troops to keep the airport secure. It’s essentially running the airport, including air traffic control, as well.
The US is also providing intelligence and surveillance for the operation. Replacing these elements would take significant time and resources. Without US military power, there’d also be an increased risk for those left behind.
Staying in Afghanistan without the US was never really an option for the British. Nor is it at Kabul airport
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said the UK will leave Kabul airport at the same time as US forces.
Speaking to media on Monday, he confirmed Prime Minister Boris Johnson will "try and seek" a US extension beyond the current 31 August evacuation deadline date at a G7 meeting tomorrow.
"When they withdraw that will take away the framework... we will have to go as well," he said. "I don't think there is any likelihood of staying on after the United States."
He added that we are "really down to hours now, not weeks", adding: "We have to make sure we exploit every minute to get people out."
The UK government has deployed five more workers to Kabul airport to aid in evacuation efforts, the Foreign Office has announced.
There are now 19 British personnel working on the ground, including Ambassador Sir Laurie Bristow, who has been praised for remaining at Kabul airport and aiding his team in processing visa applications.
Last week the UK government announced plans to accept up to 20,000 Afghan refugees, with 5,000 expected to arrive in the first year.
President Biden has announced that he plans to withdraw US troops from the airport by 31 August. However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to urge him to extend this deadline at Tuesday's virtual meeting of G7 leaders.
Copyright: European Pressphoto Agency
Lyse Doucet, the BBC's chief international correspondent, has been at Kabul airport and has written about the evacuation efforts she has witnessed.
It hits you like a brick as soon as you put your foot on the tarmac at Kabul international airport.
The intensity, the urgency, the darkness of this hour. In every direction, there are the huge grey military transport planes from the US and many other countries. Military helicopters are in the sky.
Heading towards every single plane are long queues of Afghans. The lines don't seem to end. They have been told they can only bring one suitcase and the clothes they are wearing, as they leave their country behind - the country now controlled by the Taliban.
But it's not just the country they are leaving. They are leaving behind the life they lived - and for the young, educated generation, the life they built up, the dreams they cherished over 20 years.
Read more from Lyse
BBC Radio 4
A spokesperson for the anti-Taliban forces gathering in the Panjshir Valley region of Afghanistan said that the group intends to "pursue peace and negotiations before any sort of war and conflict starts".
Ali Nazary, of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, told the BBC that thousands of fighters had gathered in the region under Ahmad Massoud, son of the famed anti-Taliban leader, Ahmad Shah Massoud.
Nazary called on the Taliban to enter into "sincere" negotiations, saying Massoud's forces were "ready for the resistance".
“The National Resistance Front of Afghanistan believes that for any lasting peace, we have to address the underlying problems of Afghanistan. We cannot just continue the same pattern we have been seeing for the past 40 years or 100 years or 200 years in the country. The number one problem is the centralised political system in the country," he said.
"Afghanistan is a country made up of ethnic minorities", he said. "It is a multicultural state. It needs power sharing, a power sharing deal where everyone sees itself in power... If one political force, whoever it is, from wherever they come from, if they try to dominate politics it will just create the conditions for internal warfare and the continuation of the current conflict."
In an article for the Washington Post last week, Ahmad Massoud pledged to "defend Panjshir as the last bastion of Afghan freedom" and called on Western nations to "aid the cause of freedom".
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