What happens to Afghan withdrawal deadline in light of the Kabul attacks

·3-min read
A US Marine provides security for qualified evacuees boarding a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of the noncombatant evacuation operation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul (via REUTERS)
A US Marine provides security for qualified evacuees boarding a US Air Force C-17 Globemaster III in support of the noncombatant evacuation operation at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul (via REUTERS)

The terror strikes at the Kabul airport on Thursday have cast a shadow over international emergency evacuation efforts in Afghanistan amid fears over similar attacks, as tens of thousands of people attempt to flee the Taliban rule.

As America’s 31 August deadline approaches, countries like Australia, Canada and New Zealand have already ended their evacuation efforts, while the UK’s is in the final stages.

US president Joe Biden has vowed to continue his mission to rescue Americans and Afghan allies as evacuations resumed on Friday with new urgency following the bomb blasts.

Despite intense pressure mounting on him to extend Tuesday’s deadline, Mr Biden has cited threat of terrorist attacks as a reason to keep to his plan.

The US military will continue evacuating people from the Kabul airport until 31 August if needed, but will prioritise the removal of US troops and military equipment on the last couple of days, the Pentagon has said.

The US on Thursday said more than 100,000 people have been safely evacuated from Kabul. While as many as 1,000 Americans and tens of thousands more Afghans are struggling to leave in one of history’s largest airlifts, Mr Biden has said he can’t get them all out.

He said the US will “continue to execute this mission with courage and honour to save lives and get Americans our partners, our Afghan allies, out of Afghanistan”.

The British defence ministry said that its evacuation is in “final” hours from Kabul’s airport and processing facilities have closed.

Despite airlifting nearly 14,000 people out of Afghanistan in the past two weeks, defence secretary Ben Wallace said in a statement that it is “sad” that not “everyone has been able to be evacuated during this process.”

Prime minister Boris Johnson said UK will continue the evacuation “until the last moment” of final stages.

“We’re now coming towards the very end of it in any event, and we’ve already extracted the overwhelming majority of those under both the schemes – the eligible persons, UK nationals, the Afghan interpreters and others. And it’s been totally phenomenal effort by the UK. There’s been nothing like it for decades and decades,” he said.

Germany, which evacuated 5,193 people on 34 flights, said it will continue evacuation flights as long as possible.

The country has identified 10,000 people who needed to be evacuated, including Afghan local staff, journalists and human rights activists. More than 540 Germans have already been evacuated while 200 nationals remain stranded.

France expects to complete its evacuation flights from Kabul on Friday evening, French prime minister Jean Castex said. The French foreign ministry said that, as of Wednesday evening, more than 100 French nationals and more than 2,000 Afghans had reached French soil after being evacuated from Kabul airport.

The countries which have already ended evacuations on Wednesday and Thursday are Belgium, Canada, Poland, Spain, Denmark, Hungary, New Zealand and Australia.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said that the evacuation is now completed with 4,100 people taken out of the country.

On Friday morning, New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country was ending further flights into Kabul amid threats of future attacks.

China has strongly condemned the deadly bomb blasts on Kabul airport triggered by an Isis-K suicide bomber who killed 95 people and injured hundreds.

British defence minister and US Central Command have raised fear over more deadly attacks in Afghanistan, including those involving rockets and vehicle-borne explosives. US commanders are on high alert and General Frank McKenzie said officials were doing “everything we can to be prepared” as he confirmed that more attacks were expected.

Additional reporting by agencies

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