Taliban stand firm on Aug. 31 troop departure deadline

U.S. Marines on duty at an evacuation control checkpoint at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Aug. 20. (U.S. Marine Corps via Reuters)   © Reuters

YUSUKE NAKAJIMA and JUNNOSUKE KOBARA, Nikkei staff writer | Afghanistan

LONDON/TOKYO — The Taliban will not extend the Aug. 31 deadline for foreign troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, fueling concerns of further disruptions in rescue efforts out of the country.

A failure by foreign forces to leave by their previously announced deadlines would be a “clear violation” and trigger “consequences,” a Taliban spokesman said, according to reports by the BBC and other outlets.

Efforts to evacuate foreign nationals as well as Afghans who assisted foreign forces have been delayed, and many analysts believe they may not be completed by the target date. “There’s discussions going on among us and the military about extending” evacuation operations, U.S. President Joe Biden said Sunday.

The U.K. has called a virtual meeting of Group of Seven leaders on Tuesday to discuss recent developments in Afghanistan. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to urge Biden to delay the full withdrawal of U.S. forces, whose presence is critical for sustained evacuation efforts.

“The United States have over 6,000 people at Kabul airport,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Monday. “When they withdraw, that will take away the framework that has allowed us to withdraw and we will have to go as well.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves No. 10 Downing St. to attend a Parliament debate regarding Afghanistan on Aug. 18.   © AP

British Shadow Defense Secretary John Healey and Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy of the opposition Labor Party have also expressed hopes of a U.S. extension.

Chaos continues to reign around the Kabul airport as Afghans desperate to leave the country throng the area. The U.S. worries that Islamic State militants could take advantage of the turmoil to launch terrorist attacks.

A Japan Air Self-Defense Force C-2 leaves Iruma air base near Tokyo to provide support for Japanese nationals in Afghanistan. (Photo by Koji Uema)

Meanwhile, Japan on Monday decided to send a total of three Self-Defense Forces aircraft to shuttle Japanese and local staff working at its embassy and at international organizations in Afghanistan to neighboring countries.

Several hundred SDF members will be dispatched to assist with the efforts, setting up operations hubs at the Kabul airport and at the neighboring country. A C-2 transport aircraft departed Japan Monday to loaded with supplies for the mission. Two C-130 transporters, which can each seat about 90 people, will also be leaving by Tuesday.

Afghans who worked for the Japan International Cooperation Agency will be included in the rescue.

“Local staff who work for Japanese organizations in Afghanistan is family,” Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told reporters Monday. “We want to ensure the safety of our colleagues.”

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