France and Britain to propose Kabul safe zone to aid evacuation.

France and Britain will submit a resolution to an emergency United Nations meeting due on Monday proposing a safe zone in Kabul to try and protect people trying to leave Afghanistan, French president Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday.

“Our resolution proposal aims to define a safe zone in Kabul, under UN control, which would allow humanitarian operations to continue,” Mr Macron told French newspaper Le Journal du Dimanche in an interview published on Sunday.

UN secretary general Antonio Guterres is convening a meeting on Afghanistan with the UN envoys for Britain, France, the United States, China and Russia – the Security Council’s permanent, veto-wielding members.

Mr Macron said on Saturday that France was holding preliminary discussions with the Taliban about the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan and the possible evacuation of more people.

US military forces, which have guarded the airport in Kabul, are due to withdraw by a Tuesday deadline set by President Joe Biden. France is among countries that have also ended evacuations from Kabul airport.

Mr Biden warned on Saturday that another militant attack was highly likely as US troops began their withdrawal from Kabul airport after a two-week scramble by Washington and its allies to evacuate citizens and at-risk Afghans.

The US president said military commanders had told him an attack was highly likely in the next 24 to 36 hours. He said the situation on the ground remains “extremely dangerous”.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson defended Britain’s airlift out of Kabul on Sunday and praised the troops for their mission after criticism grew that the government had been “asleep on watch” in Afghanistan.

Britain’s last military flight left Kabul late on Saturday, ending a chaotic two weeks in which soldiers helped to evacuate more than 15,000 people from the crowds who descended on the capital’s airport, desperate to flee the Taliban.

Mr Johnson said Britain would not have wished to leave Afghanistan in this manner following its near 20-year presence there, but he said the armed forces should be proud of their achievements none the less.

“I thank everyone involved, and I believe they can be very proud of what they’ve done,” he said in a video online.

The country’s new Taliban rulers are prepared to take control of the airport, said an official from the hardline Islamist movement that has swept cross Afghanistan, crushing the US-backed government.

Mr Biden has said he will stick by his deadline to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by Tuesday, 20 years after they invaded Kabul and ousted the Taliban government for shielding the perpetrators of the September 11th, 2001, attacks.

The Western-backed government and Afghan army melted away as the Taliban entered the capital on August 15th, leaving an administrative vacuum that has bolstered fears of a financial collapse and widespread hunger.

Under a deal with the United States, the Taliban has said it will allow foreigners and Afghans who wish to leave to fly out. The United States and allies have taken about 113,500 people out of Afghanistan in the past two weeks, but tens of thousands who want to go will be left behind.

According to a security official, crowds at the airport gates have diminished after a specific warning from the US government of another attack by militants after a suicide bombing outside the airport on Thursday.

The explosion killed scores of Afghans and 13 American troops outside the gates of the airport, where thousands of Afghans had gathered to try to get a flight out since the Taliban returned to power.

The United States said on Friday it killed two militants belonging to Islamic State, also known as Isis, which had claimed responsibility for the attack.

Mr Biden vowed to hunt down the perpetrators of the explosion and said the strike was not the last.

‘Taking over’

The Taliban condemned the late-night US drone strike, which took place in Nangarhar province, an eastern area that borders Pakistan.

“The Americans should have informed us before conducting the air strike. It was a clear attack on Afghan territory,” a Taliban spokesman told Reuters, adding that two women and a child were wounded in the attack.

The Taliban have said they have arrested some suspects involved in the airport blast.

Spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Saturday the Taliban would take over the airport “very soon” after US forces withdraw and announce a full cabinet in the coming days.

While Kabul’s airport has been in chaos, the rest of the city has been generally calm. The Taliban have told residents to hand over government equipment including weapons and vehicles within a week, the group’s spokesman said. – Reuters

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