Biden refuses to extend Afghanistan evacuation deadline but hints at contingency plans

What happens to the evacuation process between now and August 31 and will those queueing around Kabul airport get out? ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo has more

US President Joe Biden has refused to extend the deadline for evacuations from Taliban-led Afghanistan, despite the best efforts of Boris Johnson and G7 leaders at an emergency meeting.

In an address on Tuesday, the president reiterated his commitment to August 31 as the date US troops would be withdrawn but also said contingency plans are being drawn up to extend the withdrawal “should that become necessary”.

“We are currently on a pace to finish by August 31, the sooner we can finish the better," he said.

'The sooner we can finish the better' says President Biden on the Afghanistan evacuation

"Each day of operations brings added risk to our troops, but the completion by August 31 depends upon the Taliban continuing to co-operate, allow access to the airport for those who we are transporting now, and no disruption to our operations," the president added.

"In addition, I have asked the Pentagon and the State Department for contingency plans to adjust the timetable should that become necessary."

Boris Johnson has said evacuations would continue "right up until the last moment we can", but it's unclear what can be done to continue repatriating people from the country once US troops leave.

Western forces cannot act independently of US forces in Afghanistan - Rohit Kachroo explains why

Mr Johnson said he expected the UK could extract thousands more people from Afghanistan before the deadline, after already evacuating 9,000 people out of Kabul.

Both the PM and several members of the government have reiterated the government's long-term pledge to help people in Afghanistan, with ministers looking at potential other routes to get people to the UK - but details remain unclear.

The intention of the G7 meeting was to find an agreement on keeping Western forces in Afghanistan past the deadline in order to complete evacuations, but comments from the Taliban at the same time appeared crush all hopes of a delay.

Are there plans in place to keep helping people get out of Afghanistan after August 31? ITV News Political Correspondent Shehab Khan has the details of what the UK government has revealed so far

Speaking prior to President Biden’s decision, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: "August 31 is the time given and after that it's something that is against the agreement.

"All people should be removed prior to that date. After that we do not allow them, it will not be allowed in our country, we will take a different stance."

The presence of US troops in Kabul is necessary to keep repatriation flights leaving Afghanistan - it's unlikely other Western forces alone would be able to keep control at the airport.

A distressing situation is unfolding in the capital Kabul, with vulnerable Afghans and those eligible for evacuation desperate to get inside the airport, escape the country and flee the Taliban.

Senior International Correspondent John Irvine on the fraught situation at Kabul airport as Afghans desperately try to get inside:

An extension to the deadline would have provided invaluable time for Western forces to evacuate the thousands of people still in the country who are fearing for their lives at the hands of the Taliban.

ITV News has seen evidence of British nationals unable to get on board evacuation flights due to the chaos at the airport.

Speaking after meeting the G7 on Tuesday, Mr Johnson said: "We will go on right up until the last moment that we can. But you have heard what the President of the United States has had to say, you have heard what the Taliban have said.

"I think you have 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 airport is not getting any better, there are public order issues, it's harrowing scenes for those who are trying to get out, and it's tough for our military as well."

The PM said the "number one condition" that G7 leaders were urging from the Taliban was "safe passage" for those who want to leave Afghanistan beyond August 31.

He insisted that the G7 has "huge leverage" when engaging with the Taliban and suggested the idea of providing support to Afghanistan and the threat of sanctions could be enough to keep the Islamist group in check.

"I am totally realistic about the Taliban and I don't think that anybody is going to pretend that this is anything other than a very difficult situation," the Mr Johnson told broadcasters.

Boris Johnson and other G7 leaders could not convince Joe Biden to extend the deadline for evacuations. Credit: No10

"But that doesn't mean that we should ignore the leverage that we have," he added.

"We want to help with the humanitarian crisis, the difficulties that people in Afghanistan, people fleeing Afghanistan, are going to experience."

If the Taliban wants support and to be accepted by the international community, then "what we're saying is Afghanistan can't lurch back into becoming a breeding ground of terror, Afghanistan can't become a narco state, girls have to be educated up to the age of 18, and so on," the PM added.

President Biden reiterated that stance in his address on Tuesday, saying the US and its allies would not take the Taliban’s word that Afghanistan will not become a base for terrorists again.

But on Monday the group warned there will be "consequences" if evacuations continue past August 31.

Speaking on Tuesday, Mr Mujahid pleaded with skilled Afghans to stay in the country, urged America to stop encouraging an exodus and reassured females in the country about their status as workers but said they should remain at home for now while the required security and systems were implemented.

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy called the deadline not being extended "a failure of the international community".

Shadow foreign secretary Lisa Nandy said the nations not agreeing to extend the withdrawal deadline was "a failure of the international community".

She added that it was also "a failure of our government and the way in which it has approached relations with the rest of the world that meant when Boris Johnson entered that G7 meeting as the chair - the person responsible for bringing those countries together - he simply didn’t have the personal goodwill, the political capital and the leverage in order to make that agreement work."

The deadline was agreed by President Joe Biden after he inherited a peace deal agreed between former president Donald Trump and the Taliban.

There had been appetite for the other G7 members - Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the UK - to stay in Afghanistan past the deadline in order to complete an evacuation of all those eligible, but ministers have repeatedly warned that US support there is vital.

For those who have been repatriated to the UK, ITV News has heard from evacuees who say they have been left to sleep in airports before being transported to quarantine hotels.

One British Afghan national said his wife had arrived in the UK at 8:30am and had spent the day, and all night, in the airport.

The man claimed his wife was one of hundreds who had faced the same conditions after landing.

ITV News put the claims to the Home Office - in a statement they said: "We take the welfare of those in our care incredibly seriously and are working round the clock to process all arrivals from Afghanistan as quickly as possible at airports, and so far we have evacuated 8,458 people. 

"The government operates robust and extensive border checks such as taking fingerprints, therefore the arrival process can take longer than usual. However, all arrivals waiting are provided with food and drink and there is medical support on hand should anyone require it. 

"We are standing up other airports to distribute arrivals more equitably and speed up the process."