U.S. Allies Fail to Convince Biden to Extend Afghanistan Deadline During G7 Meeting

Allies of the U.S. failed to convince President Joe Biden to extend the August 31 deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan following the Taliban's return to power during a Group of Seven (G7) meeting Tuesday, the Associated Press reported.

The G7 leaders of Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S. met virtually where Biden "conveyed" the "mission in Kabul will end based on the achievement of our objectives," the White House in a statement. It added that Biden said "we are currently on pace to finish by August 31st."

There was disappointment that Biden could not be convinced to extend the deadline to allow more time to evacuate thousands of Americans, Europeans, Afghans and other third-country nationals.

"Our immediate priority is to ensure the safe evacuation of our citizens and those Afghans who have partnered with us and assisted our efforts over the past twenty years, and to ensure continuing safe passage out of Afghanistan," the G7 leaders said in a statement.

The leaders also said that "the Taliban will be held accountable for their actions on preventing terrorism, on human rights in particular those of women, girls and minorities and on pursuing an inclusive political settlement in Afghanistan."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

President Joe Biden
U.S. allies failed to convince President Joe Biden to extend the Afghanistan withdrawal deadline of August 31 during a Group of Seven (G7) meeting on Tuesday. Above, Biden speaks about COVID-19 vaccines in the South Court Auditorium at the White House complex on August 23, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The sharply divided G7 leaders clashed Tuesday during the virtual meeting.

In a partial show of unity, G7 leaders agreed on conditions for recognizing and dealing with a future Taliban-led Afghan government.

The meeting served not only as a bookend to the West's 20-year involvement in Afghanistan that began as a response to the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but also a resigned acknowledgment from European powers that the U.S. calls the shots.

The leaders' joint statement did not address precisely how they would guarantee continuing safe passage out of Afghanistan without any military presence.

Going forward, the leaders said they would "judge the Afghan parties by their actions, not words," echoing previous warnings to the Taliban not to revert to the strict Islamic form of government that they ran when they last held power from 1996 until the U.S.-led invasion that ousted them in 2001.

"The legitimacy of any future government depends on the approach it now takes to uphold its international obligations and commitments to ensure a stable Afghanistan," the leaders said.

Yet, individual leaders offered less sanguine descriptions of the meeting as well as the state of affairs in Afghanistan, which have dramatically changed since the bloc last met in Britain in June. At the time of that summit, Afghanistan had been almost an afterthought with the leaders more concentrated on the coronavirus pandemic, China and Russia. Although Biden had announced his plan for complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Cornwall meeting did not anticipate Taliban's rapid takeover.

"I want to stress again that of course the United States of America has the leadership here," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters in Berlin after the meeting. "Without the United States of America, for example, we—the others—cannot continue the evacuation mission."

"We will go on right up until the last moment that we can," said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who had openly lobbied to keep the airport presence after August 31. Johnson acknowledged he was unable to sway Biden to extend the U.S. military presence. "But you've heard what the president of the United States has had to say, you've heard what the Taliban have said."

A senior French official, speaking anonymously in accordance with the French presidency's customary practices, said President Emmanuel Macron had pushed for extending the August 31 deadline but would "adapt" to the American sovereign decision. "That's in the hands of the Americans," he said.

On Monday, CIA chief William Burns met with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul in talks in which the Taliban underscored they would not accept a U.S. military presence at the airport beyond August 31.

The White House noted that the risk of an attack from the Islamic State insurgent group (ISIS) or other terrorist groups increases each day the American troops stay at the airport. Biden told the leaders that completing the mission by August 31 depends on continued coordination with the Taliban, including continued access for evacuees to the airport.

Ahead of the meeting, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said he was doubtful that Biden would agree to extend the deadline. And Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid on Tuesday said his group would accept "no extensions" to the deadline.

Biden addressed the leaders for several minutes near the start of the meeting that lasted less than an hour, according to the White House. He was expected to deliver public remarks on Afghanistan later in the day.

The G-7 leaders were also joined by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Council President Charles Michel, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.

U.S. and European officials are increasingly concerned about ISIS militants targeting their troops and Afghan civilians near the chaotic scene outside Kabul's international airport.

Group of Seven (G7) Leaders
Leaders of the G7 pose during a group photo at their meeting at the Carbis Bay Hotel in Carbis Bay, St. Ives, Cornwall, England, on June 11, 2021. Phil Noble/Pool Photo via AP