Biden insists on evacuation deadline at G7 meeting on Afghanistan

27 August 2021

After the G7 meeting on Tuesday (24 August), it is clear that the majority of G7 leaders want the Taliban to guarantee safe departures from Afghanistan beyond August, while the US still want to maintain their withdrawal date at the end of August.

The virtual conference of the G7 states did not change Joe Biden’s position: by 31 August, he wants to have ended the evacuation mission in Kabul. According to Charles Michel, President of the European Council, the members were “concerned” and expressed their opinion – but that’s all the meeting achieved. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson reiterated afterwards that they would continue to convince the Americans to postpone the deadline. He also reiterated that people in Kabul must be airlifted out of the country “right up until the last moment that we can.”

Some G7 leaders had gone to the meeting to negotiate more time for a coordinated response in Afghanistan. At the same time, it was already clear that the US would not agree to an extension of the evacuation date. According to officials within the French and UK governments, France and the UK had pushed for the emergency G7 meeting, while the idea did not convince Biden’s administration. 

According to reports, there was even talk of a NATO intervention without the US’ participation, but Britain could not win over any like-minded nations for such a venture. Instead, the G7 leaders could only agree on a set of conditions for dealing with the Taliban. A more prolonged presence of the evacuation mission or a resettlement programme for refugees were not part of the agreement. 

The meeting also took place after the Taliban announced that after 31 August, only foreigners would be allowed to leave Afghanistan, while Afghans would only be able to do so with special permission. The G7 then tried to agree on a strategy for dealing with the Talibanalthough this, too, proved only partially successful. After the meeting, there was also a slight disagreement about this. Whereas Boris Johnson spoke of a “roadmap” for dealing with the Taliban, this term was questioned by EU officials and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke only of an “agreement”.

The G7 agreed on getting the Taliban to break their ties with terrorist organizations. Also, the Taliban should only receive access to Afghanistan’s billions in foreign-held assets if they would guarantee safe passage for refugees, fight terrorism and drug trafficking, and allow girls’ education. 

The limited outcome of the G7 meeting was foreseeable with many expecting regional powers, such as India, to play a more important role. European leaders seemed to share the opinion that the G7 is probably not the best forum for an international response. European Council President Charles Michel stated, “we need to speak to other members of the international community.” The upcoming G20 summit, which will include countries like Turkey or India, should be seen as a new opportunity to take more significant steps on, for example, resettling Afghan refugees.