The Prime Minister is expected to use a crunch meeting with world leaders to push for the US President to delay the withdrawal from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized control
Boris Johnson is set to urge Joe Biden to extend the Kabul evacuation deadline amid fears mercy flights could end in just 48 hours.
The Prime Minister is expected to use a crunch meeting with world leaders to push for the US President to delay the withdrawal from the country.
It comes after the Ministry of Defence confirmed that nearly 6,000 people have been evacuated out of Kabul as Brit troops were said to have witnessed ‘harrowing scenes’ at the airport.
Brit military chiefs are reported to have pencilled in August 25 as the final day for refugee flights before moving to the evacuation of about 1,000 troops and government officials.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace held talks with their Washington counterparts over the weekend to press home the desire for US troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond August 31 in order to continue to secure the capital city’s airport for repatriation flights.
According to reports the PM is expected to use an emergency G7 summit on Tuesday to personally lobby Mr Biden on the issue.
In a tweet, he said it was “vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations”.
Foreign Office minister James Cleverly told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour programme that the Government would continue to try to convince the White House incumbent to extend the exit deadline.
“Obviously the more time that we’ve got, the more people we can evacuate and that’s what we’re pushing for,” he said.
But the President signalled on Sunday that he did not want US armed forces to stay in the country beyond August.
Asked about delaying the withdrawal of American troops during a press conference, Mr Biden said: “Our hope is that we don’t have to extend but there are discussions going on about how far we are.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has written to the Prime Minister calling for more information on how the UK is planning for the next stages of the rescue mission.
Sir Keir asked whether Mr Johnson had “spoken personally” to President Biden to “ask him to extend the evacuation period beyond the end of August”, and whether the UK was working on a contingency plan with Nato allies to “hold Kabul airport without US troops”.
Government officials said there is “no fixed date” on when the UK will withdraw but it is feared that without US boots on the ground, the remaining allied forces would be unable to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport from the crowds looking to flee the Taliban.
Meanwhile, the MoD said that as part of the UK rescue mission embassy staff and Brit nationals were among those rescued under ‘Operation Pitting’.
People eligible under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy programme and a small number of nationals from other countries have also been evacuated.
The effort is being supported by 1,000 British troops on the ground, including Paras from 16 Air Assault Brigade, as well as other Whitehall staff.
Brigadier Dan Blanchford, the most senior UK military officer on the ground in Kabul, said British armed forces personnel had “witnessed some harrowing scenes”, with at least seven Afghan civilians confirmed to have died outside the airfield gates in the chaotic crowds.
In total, 5,725 people have been repatriated since the mission began on August 13, with 3,100 of them Afghan individuals and their families.
The MoD said the evacuation process would “run as long as the security situation allows in joint co-ordination with our US partners”, with “no firm date set” for the end of civilian flights.
Brigadier Blanchford, Commander Joint Forces Operations, said the armed forces had also been supplying aid – including food, nappies and baby milk – as part of their efforts to get people to the UK.
“The UK Joint Task Force is at the front end of a massive cross-government evacuation operation, delivering a highly complex and demanding mission at range and in difficult circumstances,” he said.
“The horrific difficulties which families and individuals have in getting to the airport are clear and my men and women on the frontline have seen and witnessed some harrowing scenes.
“I am proud of the work which our armed forces, who have shown professionalism and compassion in challenging circumstances.
“We are redoubling our efforts to speed up the processes and support the most vulnerable.
“To that end, we have flown forward 30,000 litres of water a day, food for 5,000 people and have purchased and are distributing 2,700 nappies, 3,600 bottles of baby milk and 2,025 sanitary packs.”
He added: “The men and women in the Joint Taskforce Forwards are working round the clock to get at risk Afghans and UK entitled personnel, and their families, out of Afghanistan in as safe and controlled manner as the circumstances allow.
“We have also established an evacuation handling model which is being used by many other European and allied countries and have evacuated citizens from a total of 38 countries.
“It has taken a massive effort at every level of Government to achieve.”