Afghanistan: Boris Johnson to personally plead with Joe Biden to extend deadline for US withdrawal

Boris Johnson will personally plead with Joe Biden to extend a deadline for US troops leaving Afghanistan to allow more people to flee the reign of terror of the Taliban.

The prime minister will use an emergency G7 summit of the world’s most powerful leaders to appeal to the president to delay the 31 August deadline to tackle the chaos and mayhem at Kabul airport.

And ahead of the summit, Mr Biden signalled he could be willing to bow to demands for an extension, revealing discussions were already under way and saying he would tell the G7: “We will see what we can do.”

After the Ministry of Defence revealed that seven people died in the crush at the airport over the weekend, taking the total airport death toll to 20, Mr Johnson announced that the summit planned since last week would take place on Tuesday.

And in a move clearly intended to exert pressure on Mr Biden, the prime minister – who currently chairs the G7 – placed the evacuation chaos and preventing a humanitarian crisis at the top of agenda for the video-link summit.

“It is 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,” Mr Johnson tweeted.

Minutes later the president’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said: “The leaders will discuss continuing our close co-ordination of Afghanistan policy and evacuating our citizens, the brave Afghans who stood with us over the last two decades and other vulnerable Afghans.

“They will also discuss plans to provide humanitarian assistance and support for Afghan refugees.”

Later, at a White House news conference, the president suggested he may be ready to bow to pressure from Mr Johnson and other world leaders such as Germany’s Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron of France to back down.

Asked about extending the 31 August deadline, Mr Biden said: “There are discussions going on about extending. Our hope is that we don’t have to extend, but there are discussions going on about how far we are.

Asked what he would tell G7 leaders pressing for an extension, he said: “I will tell them ‘We will see what we can do’.”

And asked if he had discussed delaying the withdrawal of troops with the Taliban, Mr Biden said: “Obviously we’ve discussed a lot with the Taliban.

“They have been co-operative in in extending some of the perimeter (of the airport). It remains to be seen whether we ask that question.”

Earlier, Armed Forces minister James Heappey told Sky News that requests for a delay had been raised by both Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace with their US counterparts.

The MoD also announced that more than 1,720 people were airlifted from Kabul by the RAF over the weekend on eight flights, taking the total to 5,725 since the airlift began.

The Times is reporting that Britain is to step up the mass evacuation of British and Afghan citizens from Afghanistan this week in plans to fly a further 6,000 people from the chaos in Kabul.

But ahead of the G7 talks, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to the prime minister asking what he has done to secure more time for UK troops to evacuate Britons and eligible Afghans out of Kabul.

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Claiming there are “too many unanswered questions” remaining about the rescue mission in Afghanistan as the deadline approaches for US withdrawal on 31 August, Sir Keir has posed seven questions.

“Proper planning for the coming days will ensure that no one to whom we owe so much will be left behind,” the Labour leader writes.

He asks whether the prime minister has spoken personally to President Biden to ask him to extend the evacuation period and whether the UK was among those at a NATO foreign ministers’ meeting on Friday that pressed for an extension.

He also asks whether the UK government is working with NATO allies “to hold Kabul airport without US troops” should it become necessary in the event Washington pulls its armed forces personnel out before efforts are over.

Responding to Sir Keir, a government spokeswoman said: “We are doing all we can to get as many people out of Afghanistan as possible including British nationals, our Afghan staff and others.

“Since Sunday we have evacuated more than 5,000 people and these life-saving efforts continue.

“The prime minister has been clear a co-ordinated and concerted international effort is needed.

“We are in close contact with our Commonwealth and NATO partners to facilitate swift evacuations and have set out that there is no time limit to the resettlement programme.”

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