Biden sticks to August 31 deadline; Taliban concerned over brain drain

US President Joe Biden has reaffirmed the August 31 deadline for ending the troop presence in Afghanistan despite immense pressure from his NATO allies who were seeking an extension to complete the evacuation of their nationals and thousands of Afghans at risk of facing retribution from the Taliban

Aug 25, 2021
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US President Joe Biden

US President Joe Biden has reaffirmed the August 31 deadline for ending the troop presence in Afghanistan despite immense pressure from his NATO allies who were seeking an extension to complete the evacuation of their nationals and thousands of Afghans at risk of facing retribution from the Taliban. 

The decision came after the leaders of the G7 group held a virtual meeting to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. The meeting was called in by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson who stressed that the Taliban should guarantee safe passage to people, intended to get out, well beyond 31 August.  

The Taliban, on the other hand, made it clear on Tuesday that it would extend the deadline and the US and other countries should stop evacuating educated and professional Afghans, leading to brain drain in the country. 

Addressing a press conference on Tuesday in Kabul, Taliban Spokesperson Zabiullah Mujahid asked the country’s educated class not to leave the country, assuring them of their safety, and said they would be needed to rebuild the country.  He further asked the US to stop evacuating skilled Afghans. 

The press conference by Mujahid showed how the group, which has violently seized power in Afghanistan on 15 August and now feels the pressure of governance, is worried about this wholesale outflux of talent. 

Others, however, argued that the group should have thought about these consequences earlier, well before seizing power militarily. Furthermore, it is now the responsibility of the group to take these people in confidence. 

Meanwhile, the evacuation drive in Kabul picked pace early this week. From Monday morning to Tuesday evening, the US has evacuated over 33,000 people, most of them are Afghans at risk. Justifying his decision to stick to the August 31 deadline, Biden said that there was a constant threat of the ISIS-K staging attack on Kabul airport. 

Since last week, western intelligence agencies have sounded multiple alerts about possible attacks by ISIS. 

Furthermore, despite assurances, there are credible reports that the Taliban has been cracking down on former government officials and members of security forces. In the G7 meeting on Tuesday, it was decided that the Taliban “will be held accountable for their action on preventing terrorism, on human rights, in particular, those of women, girls, and minorities and on pursuing an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan.”

“The legitimacy of any future government depends on the approach it now takes to uphold its international obligations and to commitments to ensure a stable Afghanistan,” the statement issued after the G7 leaders’ meet said. 

The group also expressed “grave concern about the situation in Afghanistan and called for “calm restraint”  to ensure the safety and security of Afghans. 

(SAM)