Boris Johnson to challenge Joe Biden and G7 leaders over Afghanistan crisis

Kamala Harris insists Afghanistan evacuation is 'highest priority'

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At an online summit, the Prime Minister will call for a “joint approach” by the West to try to preserve the progress made in the country since the allied intervention 20 years ago. He is to urge his counterparts to catch up with the UK’s pledge to welcome thousands of Afghan refugees and double annual aid to the country.

Boris Johnson triggered the emergency meeting of leaders of the G7 group of advanced industrialised countries following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan last week.

He will chair the discussion, which is set to focus both the ongoing evacuation from Kabul and the long-term future of the country.

Speaking ahead of the meeting on Tuesday, the Prime Minister said: “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.

“That’s why I’ve called an emergency meeting of the G7 – to coordinate our response to the immediate crisis, to reaffirm our commitment to the Afghan people, and to ask our international partners to match the UK’s commitments to support those in need.

“Together with our partners and allies, we will continue to use every humanitarian and diplomatic lever to safeguard human rights and protect the gains made over the last two decades. The Taliban will be judged by their deeds and not their words.”

Following the Taliban takeover last week, the UK Government swiftly announced one of the most generous refugee resettlement programmes in British history with an offer to welcome up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghans.

Ministers also doubled the amount of annual aid to Afghanistan committing up to £286 million with immediate effect.

Mr Johnson wants commitments on a similar scale from Mr Biden, French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other leaders at the G7 summit today.

This afternoon’s meeting will take place by video conference, with the general secretaries of Nato and the United Nations also joining in.

The leaders are also expected to sign up to a joint commitment to safeguard progress made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years including the advances in human rights, girls’ education and the rights of women and minorities.

Earlier this week the Prime Minister set out a five-point plan for addressing the threat of a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. His plan includes:

  • Immediately helping those to whom we have direct obligations;
  • Protecting ourselves against any threat from terrorism;
  • Supporting Afghan people in the region through humanitarian and development assistance;
  • Creating safe and legal routes to resettle Afghans in need;
  • Developing a clear plan for dealing with the new Afghan regime in a unified and concerted way.

Mr Johnson chaired another meeting of his Cobra emergencies committee on Monday to discuss the evacuation of UK Nationals and their dependants, embassy staff, and Afghan nationals under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) programme.

Opposition leaders at Westminster last night urged the Prime Minister to work for more generous support for refugees at today’s summit.

Labour’s shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said: “This virtual G7 meeting is a make or break test of the Prime Minister’s ability to bring together international partners, rise to the occasion and show leadership.”

She said the UK Government must “step up and demand” that “as many people as possible have safe passage out of Afghanistan by prioritising efforts to extend the air bridge out of Kabul beyond 31st August.”

She also called for a global agreement to deal with the unfolding refugee crisis by working with neighbouring countries to keep land borders open and “a strategy for supporting those who will be left behind.”

Ms Nandy added: “The G7 must agree a joint strategy to safeguard our collective security and guarantee Afghanistan does not become a safe haven for terrorist organisations that pose a threat to the UK.

“The Prime Minister has had eighteen months to plan for this – the world’s eyes are on tomorrow’s meeting to make the next seven days count.”

Lib Dem leader Ed Davey said: “Our brave soldiers at Kabul airport are protecting Afghans and UK nationals from not just the Taliban, but the threat of terrorist attacks too.

“So at the G7, the challenge for the Prime Minister is this: will the United Kingdom be at the forefront of a concerted global effort to keep our citizens safe and stop a new terror threat from reaching our shores?

The Taliban will be judged by their deeds and not their words

Boris Johnson

“It is also vital that those Afghans who cannot make it to Kabul airport are nonetheless supported in their attempts to leave the country. The Prime Minister has the opportunity to put safe passage for refugees on the global agenda.

“If we cannot evacuate Afghans, the least we can do is work with the international community — especially neighbouring countries such as Pakistan — and use every diplomatic lever possible to try and secure a safe route out of the country for those who wish to flee the Taliban.”

The Prime Minister spoke to Mr Biden on Monday night and they agreed to continue working on the evacuation from Afghanistan “after the initial phase” has ended.

But Washington refused to commit to extending the August 31 deadline for the operation.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the President “continues to consult” with Mr Johnson and other allies on “how this evacuation should proceed from here and he’ll ultimately make the determination”.

Downing Street said the leaders agreed a major diplomatic push is needed to prevent a humanitarian crisis.

A spokesman said: “They discussed the ongoing efforts by the UK and US to coordinate the rapid and safe evacuation of our nationals and those who previously worked with our governments from Kabul International Airport.

“The leaders agreed to continue working together to ensure those who are eligible to leave are able to, including after the initial phase of the evacuation has ended.

“The Prime Minister and President Biden noted the importance of concerted diplomatic engagement to secure the progress made in Afghanistan and prevent a humanitarian crisis.

“They committed to driving international action, including through the G7 and UN Security Council, to stabilise the situation, support the Afghan people and work towards an inclusive and representative Afghan government.”

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