UK’s Kabul Airlift to End in 36 Hours, Report Says as Biden Rejects Evacuation Deadline Extension

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told

Sky News

on Wednesday that “the lion’s share” of British citizens without dual nationality had been “brought home” from Afghanistan.

He said about 2,000 people had been evacuated from the Afghan capital over the past 24 hours, adding that the government thinks the deadline for the Kabul evacuation is all the way “to the end of the calendar month”.

REUTERS / UK MOD Crown copyright 2021

British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan board a military plane for evacuation from Kabul airport, Afghanistan August 16, 2021, in this handout picture obtained by Reuters on August 17, 2021.

Raab spoke after

The Guardian

quoted unnamed defence sources as saying that

the evacuation of UK nationals and allied Afghans

from the Kabul Airport is expected to wrap up within “24 to 36 hours”.

The sources claimed that the US military may need up to three days to end its own operations at the airport and that UK troops want to be at least 24 hours “ahead of that”.

According to the insiders, it will give the Royal Air Force (RAF) a small window for evacuating those currently “at risk from the Taliban’s* takeover”.

US, UK at Odds Over Kabul Evacuation Deadline at G7 Summit

The claims followed President Joe Biden refusing to keep US troops in Afghanistan past the 31 August deadline, earlier described as a “red line” by the Taliban.

At a UK-hosted emergency G7 summit on Tuesday,

Prime Minister Boris Johnson

was reportedly set to press Biden to keep American forces on the ground at the Kabul Airport to further provide security, but POTUS made it clear that the 31 August deadline remains in place.

“We are currently on a pace to finish by August 31”, the US president said, adding that he has asked the Pentagon and the State Department “for contingency plans to adjust the timetable should that become necessary”.

He also noted that “completion of the [US] mission by 31 August depends on continued coordination with the Taliban, including continued access for evacuees to the airport”.

REUTERS / Ben Shread/UK MOD Crown copyright 2021/Handout

Members of the UK Armed Forces continue to take part in the evacuation of entitled personnel from Kabul airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan August 19-22, 2021, in this handout picture obtained by Reuters on August 23, 2021. LPhot Ben Shread/UK MOD Crown copyright 2021/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. MANDATORY CREDIT. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

UK Prime Minister Johnson, for his part, said that it was impossible to persuade Biden to extend the deadline given the US president’s domestic political priorities and the Taliban’s warning that all foreign troops must leave by the end of this month.

“You’ve heard what the president of the United States has had to say. You’ve heard what the Taliban have said. I think you’ve got to understand the context in which we’re doing this. We’re confident we can get thousands more out, but the situation at the [Kabul] airport is not getting any better”, Johnson said.

During Tuesday’s summit, G7 member states agreed on a roadmap for dealing with

a “probable” Taliban government

and insisted that they will hold control of the Kabul Airport as long as possible.


G7 States Agree on Roadmap for Dealing With ‘Probable’ Taliban Government, Not on Evacuation’s End

As Biden said that the US intends to comply with the 31 August troop withdrawal deadline, France, Germany, and Italy joined the UK in seeking an extension to the deadline.

Some Tory MPs and UK government ministers reportedly reacted angrily to Biden’s move not to extend the headline, with an unnamed senior lawmaker quoted by

The Guardian

as saying that “the special relationship is very, very damaged”.

The newspaper also referred to an unnamed cabinet minister citing him as claiming that “Biden’s America seems to have chosen to back off just when it was obvious only they could step up”.

*The Taliban is a terrorist group banned in Russia and many other countries.