NEWS
23/08/2021 19:10 BST | Updated 24/08/2021 08:31 BST

Afghanistan: How World Leaders Plan To Handle The Crisis

Boris Johnson is expected to ask Joe Biden to delay the troop withdrawal on Tuesday.

WAKIL KOHSAR via Getty Images
Taliban fighters in a vehicle patrol the streets of Kabul on August 23, 2021

Boris Johnson will be hosting a virtual meeting of the G7 leaders on Tuesday to address the Taliban’s recent takeover of Afghanistan.

Alongside Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the US are all expected to attend.

The prime minister has been scrutinised for his delayed response to the crisis, so the pressure’s on for him – and his international counterparts – to act, quickly.

Here’s a list of potential solutions the world leaders are expected to turn to – and whether they’ll be effective.

Delay the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan

The prime minister is expected to ask US President Joe Biden to delay his original plan to have all American troops out of Afghanistan by August 31.

Foreign office minister James Cleverly confirmed on Sunday that the UK had already pleaded with the US to stay a little longer.

UK and US troops are proving fundamental to the safe evacuation of Afghan refugees, as Kabul Airport is descending into chaos as the citizens desperately try to board any flight out of the country.

WAKIL KOHSAR via Getty Images
Afghans gather on a roadside near the military part of the airport in Kabul on August 20, 2021

Yet, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told Sky News that the deadline was a “red line”, and warned Nato not to push it back.

He added: “If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no. Or there would be consequences.”

It’s thought Biden also wanted this self-imposed deadline so the US would be out of the country on the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. 

He said on Sunday, “our hope is we will not have to” extend America’s military presence in Afghanistan.

Armed forces minister James Heappey told BBC Breakfast on Monday: “If there is no opportunity to extend [the deadline] – either because there’s not the international appetite to do so, or perhaps more likely the Taliban are unwilling to allow us to – then we need to continue with our plans to be out by August 31.”

Handout via Getty Images
n this handout image provided by the Ministry of Defence, the British armed forces work with the U.S. military to evacuate eligible civilians out of Afghanistan on August 21, 2021 

Sanctions against the Taliban

Despite mounting pressure, the UK will not be proposing to other world leaders new sanctions to deal with the Taliban, HuffPost UK’s Paul Waugh writes.

No.10 pushed back at claims that the UK would be pressing the idea of financial sanctions should the Taliban if they allow the country to become a haven for terrorists or commit human rights abuses.

Johnson is under pressure from former PM Tony Blair and others to draw up a list of “incentives and sanctions” to avoid the country from losing the gains it has made during its shift to democracy over the past 20 years.

Biden said on Sunday that he was open to new financial penalties if the Taliban committed human rights abuses, adding “it depends on the conduct”.

But with the US and UK dependent on the Taliban’s cooperation for the current emergency airlift of citizens from Kabul, Downing Street played down the prospect of ramping up possible sanctions.

Asked directly about new sanctions being pushed at the G7 meeting, the PM’s official spokesperson said on Monday: “That’s not something the UK is proposing. Sanctions are one tool that countries have at their disposal but we’re not seeking to propose that.”

WAKIL KOHSAR via Getty Images
Taliban fighters stand along a road in Kabul on August 18, 2021, after the Taliban's military takeover of Afghanistan.

Taking in more Afghan evacuees

The UK has committed to taking in 5,000 refugees this year, and a total of 20,000 over five years, in addition to evacuating their own nationals and the Afghans who have aided western forces in the last 20 years.

On Wednesday, a Downing Street spokesperson said: “We are now asking our international partners to match the UK’s commitments and work with us to offer a lifeline to Afghanistan’s most vulnerable people.”

Canada will also be taking 20,000, while Australia said it has “no plans” to take fleeing Afghans. Switzerland said on Wednesday it will not accept large groups of Afghan refugees but will review asylum applications.

Greece has erected a fence along its border to prevent the arrival of Afghan migrants.

The US has announced it will take 22,000 refugees too, but many critics believe these targets are far from satisfactory.

Many European countries are afraid of repeating the 2015 migration crisis when more than a million refugees fled to Europe.

But Tory backbencher David Davis told HuffPost UK that Britain should be looking to take 50,000 or more refugees.

Many members of the public have also appealed to the government to take a greater number, 

The Lib Dems have said the government should take 20,000 at the very least, although Sir Keir Starmer, Labour leader, said it was “not a helpful discussion” to talk about a number, and the priority should be the evacuation strategy.

Labour MP Naz Shah, however, has pleaded for the UK to take more refugees, as did Conservative MP Sir Bob Neill, while the Scottish Refugee Council urged the government to quicken its plan and take 10,000 a year.

Labour MP Chris Bryant also asked in the Commons recently: “What are the 15,000 meant to do? Hang around and wait until they have been executed?” 

The UN’s refugee agency has said more than 550,000 Afghans are currently displaced since January, but it remains unclear if the G7 nations will alter their current refugee targets.

Chris McGrath via Getty Images
Migrants from Afghanistan walk along a village pathway to reach Tatvan city on July 17, 2021 in Tatvan, Turkey.

Boost humanitarian aid

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has promised to send more humanitarian aid to Afghanistan in a bid to help resettle Afghan refugees.

She revealed the Commission had proposed sending €57 million to Afghanistan in 2021, but added: “We have to increase that.”

But she promised: “Not a single euro can go to a regime...that denies women and girls their full freedom and rights to education and careers.

“The situation is still very unclear and very unpredictable. We will measure [the Taliban] above all by their deeds and their actions.”

Foreign secretary Dominic Raab has promised to increase aid to Afghanistan by 10 percent, but this has been heavily criticised for still falling short at £286 million.