Government Warns Afghanistan Evacuation Will Get "More Dangerous" As Deadline Nears
US forces are expected to leave Kabul on 31 August (Alamy)
Defence secretary Ben Wallace has said an extension to the August 31 evacuation deadline from Afghanistan is "unlikely" as fears of terrorist attacks on the airport heighten.
This morning Wallace issued a frank warning that the security risk in Kabul gets “more and more dangerous” every day as the deadline approaches.
“Terrorist groups such as Isis would like to be seen to take greater credit, or like to be seen to chase the West out of the airport — that is inevitably going to feed their narrative and ambitions," he told Sky News.
“The Taliban are actually controlling the outer ring of the airport and indeed checkpoints throughout Kabul and that makes it harder for Isis terrorists.
He added: "The Taliban and Isis have no friendly relationship at all, but we are very mindful that we are very, very vulnerable should these terrorists choose to do something.”
Wallace also stressed that it was "unlikely" that US president Joe Biden would delay the departure of US troops beyond the 31 August deadline.
“Not only because of what the Taliban has said but if you look at the public statements of President Biden I think it is unlikely," he said.
“It is definitely worth us all trying and we will.”
He said it was not possible for British troops to continue the evacuation efforts in Kabul without the support of the US military.
Over the past 24 hours, the UK has evacuated more than 2,000 people, Wallace added.
This afternoon Boris Johnson will host a virtual summit of G7 leaders in which he is expected to put pressure on Biden to keep troops in the country.
The prime minister wrote on Twitter this morning that he will ask "our friends and allies to stand by the Afghan people and step up support for refugees and humanitarian aid".
"The Taliban will be judged by their deeds and not their words," he added.
Leaders are also expected to use the meeting to discuss how the will ensure the ongoing security of Afghanistan, and how they can safeguard "the gains made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years" such as girls’ education and the rights of women and minorities.
“Our first priority is to complete the evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have assisted our efforts over the last 20 years – but as we look ahead to the next phase, it’s vital we come together as an international community and agree a joint approach for the longer term," Johnson said ahead of the G7 meeting.
The meeting will take place by video conference and the NATO and UN Secretaries-General have also been invited to join the discussion.
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