Boris Johnson calls G7 meeting on Afghanistan crisis
The US calls up18 civilian aircraft to help evacuate thousands of Afghans hoping to flee Taliban rule
London — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had called a virtual G7 leaders’ meeting for Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan and urged governments to find ways to prevent conditions from getting worse.
Taliban militants seized control of Kabul last weekend in an upheaval that sent civilians and Afghan military allies fleeing for safety. Many fear a return to the austere interpretation of Islamic law imposed during the previous Taliban rule that ended 20 years ago.
Western governments are discussing how to handle the situation in Kabul where thousands of civilians desperate to flee have descended on the airport.
“It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years,” Johnson said on Twitter on Sunday.
Britain holds the rotating leadership of the G7, which also includes the US, Italy, France, Germany, Japan and Canada.
US President Joe Biden, under fire at home and abroad for his handling of the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, will meet virtually with the G7 leaders to co-ordinate policy, discuss evacuation efforts and humanitarian assistance, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Sunday.
The meeting will build on Biden’s calls this week with Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
The US on Sunday ordered six commercial airlines to help transport people after their evacuation from Afghanistan.
The Pentagon said it called up 18 civilian aircraft from United Airlines, American Airlines, Delta Air and others to carry people from temporary locations after they landed from Afghanistan, leaning on the industry it last called upon during the Iraq war in 2003.
The move highlights the difficulty Washington is having in carrying out the evacuations after the Taliban’s swift takeover, marking only the third time the US military has employed civilian aircraft.
Thousands of people remained outside the Kabul international airport on Sunday hoping to be evacuated as Taliban gunman beat back crowds.
The aircraft will not fly into Kabul in what Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby described as stage 1 of the programme, suggesting more commercial aircraft could be activated later.
At Kabul airport on Sunday the Taliban fired in the air and used batons to force people to form orderly queues, witnesses said, a day after seven people were killed in a crush at the gates.
Britain’s defence ministry confirmed that seven Afghans were killed in the crush around the airport on Saturday as thousands tried to get a flight out. Sky News showed soldiers on a wall on Saturday attempting to pull the injured from the crush and spraying people with a hose to prevent them from getting dehydrated.
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