Kabul evacuation: ‘The sooner we can finish, the better,’ says Biden.

US president Joe Biden said US troops in Afghanistan faced mounting danger as they pushed to complete evacuations by an August 31st deadline, with aid agencies warning of a looming humanitarian crisis for the population left behind.

The United States and its allies have evacuated more than 70,000 people, including their citizens, Nato personnel and Afghans at risk, since August 14th, the day before the Taliban swept into the capital, Kabul.

Western countries are now rushing to complete the airlift before the deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops under an agreement struck with the Taliban last year to end the US’s longest war.

Mr Biden said US troops were on pace to meet the deadline.

“The sooner we can finish, the better,” Mr Biden said on Tuesday. “Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops.”

It comes as European leaders failed to persuade the US president to keep troops at Kabul airport beyond the deadline at a meeting of the G7, leaving just days to complete evacuations.

German chancellor Angela Merkel said there was “no new date” for the end of evacuations after a virtual meeting in which London, Paris and Berlin pushed for Washington to continue its military presence to give more time to extract people who fear for their lives after the Taliban takeover.

The Islamist militant group have offered reassurances that there will not be reprisal killings after they swept to take control of the country in an ignominious end for the US and its allies to a 20-year war.

But the group’s enduring reputation for brutality and executions has spurred tens of thousands of Afghans to desperately seek to leave the country or go into hiding, particularly those who worked with international forces and organisations.

Risk of persecution

The Taliban declared that Afghans would not longer be allowed to reach the airport on Tuesday, saying that this was necessary to prevent a repeat of fatal crushes but also accusing the US of removing skilled people whose expertise was needed in the country.

“The road that ends at Kabul airport has been blocked. Foreigners can go through it but Afghans are not allowed to take the road,” said Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid.

While the focus is now on those people trying to flee, the risk of starvation, disease and persecution is rising for the rest of the population after the chaotic exodus from Kabul airport ends, aid agencies say.

“There’s a perfect storm coming because of several years of drought, conflict, economic deterioration, compounded by Covid,” David Beasley, the executive director of the UN World Food Programme, told Reuters in Doha, calling for the international community to donate $200 million (€170 million) in food aid.

“The number of people marching towards starvation has spiked to now 14 million.”

Afghanistan’s population is estimated at 36 million though no census has been completed over more than 40 years of warfare and refugee movements.

The EU said this week it was planning a quadrupling in aid and was seeking coordination with the United Nations on delivery as well as safety guarantees on the ground.

Foreign donors pledged a projected $12 billion (€10.2 billion) in civilian aid to Afghanistan over four years at a conference last November, but many made it conditional on protecting human rights and progress on peace talks.

The UN human rights chief said she had received credible reports of serious violations by the Taliban, including “summary executions” of civilians and Afghan security forces who had surrendered. The Taliban have said they will investigate any reports of atrocities.

Land routes

A Nato country diplomat in Kabul, who declined to be identified, said several international aid groups are desperate to get their Afghan staff to neighbouring nations.

Tens of thousands of Afghans fearing persecution have thronged Kabul’s airport since the Taliban takeover, the lucky ones securing seats on flights.

The Nato country diplomat said Afghanistan’s neighbours should open their land borders to allow more people to leave.

Iran, Pakistan and Tajikistan should be pulling out far more people using either air or land routes. It’s vital air and land routes are used at a very fast pace,” the diplomat told Reuters.

The Taliban said all foreign evacuations must be completed by August 31st, and asked the United States to stop urging talented Afghans to leave, while also trying to persuade people at the airport to go home, assuring them that they had nothing to fear.

“We guarantee their security,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a news conference on Tuesday.

Mr Biden, in remarks at the White House, said the United States was racing to meet the August 31st deadline as concerns mount over the threat of militant attacks.

Two US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said there was growing concern about the risk of suicide bombings by Islamic State at the airport. – Reuters

The Irish Times

The Irish Times online. Latest news including sport, analysis, business, weather and more from the definitive brand of quality news in Ireland.

https://www.irishtimes.com/

SpaceX launches 1st private flight to space

SpaceX launches 1st private flight to space

Elon Musk’s SpaceX launch is the company’s first chartered passenger flight and marks a big step in space tourism.

WATCH: SpaceX Launch First All-civilian Inspiration4 Crew Into Orbit.

WATCH: SpaceX Launch First All-civilian Inspiration4 Crew Into Orbit.

SpaceX successfully launched the first all-civilian crew into orbit where they’ll spend 3 days aboard a Crew Dragon capsule. » Subscribe to NBC News: » Watch more NBC video: NBC News Digital is a collection of innovative and powerful news brands t...

FDA remains neutral in stance on COVID-19 booster shots.

FDA remains neutral in stance on COVID-19 booster shots.

The FDA is not yet taking a definitive stance on whether or not booster shots are needed to help protect people from coronavirus infections. A key advisory committee is set to meet to discuss authorizing an extra dose of Pfizer's vaccine in the co...

1 2

Hannity: A nonpartisan commission needs to immediately investigate this.

Hannity: A nonpartisan commission needs to immediately investigate this.

‘Hannity’ host warns there is no middle ground in accusations, if true America faces ‘a constitutional crisis of the highest order.’ #FoxNews #Hannity Subscribe to Fox News! Watch more Fox News Video: Watch Fox News Channel Live: FOX News Channel ...

Chiropractor signed hundreds of mask exemptions for kids.

Chiropractor signed hundreds of mask exemptions for kids.

CNN's Randi Kaye attempts to speak with chiropractor Dan Busch, who despite not being a medical doctor, wrote medical exemptions for students wishing to opt out of wearing masks in Sarasota County Schools in Florida. #CNN #News

Britain and US will help Australia build nuclear powered subs to combat China.

Britain and US will help Australia build nuclear powered subs to combat China.

Britain and the US last night hailed a deal to help Australia build nuclear-powered subs to combat Chinese aggression. The AUKUS defence alliance will share nuclear secrets to give Australia its first fleet of the vessels. UK-based firms Babcock, ...