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Germany explores Turkey-led ‘civilian only’ option to fly out people from Kabul after Aug 31

The German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (Pic Courtesy DW)

Germany is holding discussions with Turkey on whether it could lead a “civilian only” airlift of people to be evacuated from Kabul after US forces leave, according to a report in leading British newspaper The Guardian. 

The alternative option appears to have been brought to the table as US President Joe Biden has given no categorical assurance as yet that he would extend the August 31 deadline for pulling out US troops from Kabul airport.

A defiant Taliban said on Monday that they would not allow any extension of the deadline for withdrawal of foreign troops beyond August 31.

German foreign minister Heiko Maas had earlier said: “We are talking with the United States, Turkey and other partners with the aim of facilitating a civil operation of Kabul airport to enable the evacuation of people beyond 31 August. We will also have to continue to talk with the Taliban about this issue, and that’s what we are doing.”

The evacuation issue is expected to be raised at the emergency G7 meeting taking place on Tuesday, where British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU leaders will urge Joe Biden to delay the withdrawal of US troops so further evacuations can take place beyond the August 31 deadline.

Biden has insisted he wants to end the US military presence and the airlifts by August 31. Asked by a reporter whether the United States would extend an Aug. 31 deadline for evacuations, Biden replied: "Our hope is we will not have to extend but there are going to be discussions I suspect on how far along we are in the process."

But with the European Union and Britain saying it would be impossible to evacuate everyone by August 31, the US President is under pressure to extend the deadline.

Britain still wants to fly thousands of people out from Afghanistan and has not set a hard deadline for when evacuations will end, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesperson said on Monday.

Germany and Switzerland had to cancel flights out of Kabul last week as their citizens were unable to reach the airport amid the deteriorating security situation.

The US currently has close to 6,000 troops to secure the Kabul airport. Additional US forces have also been put on standby in nearby Kuwait and can be quickly deployed if the need arises.

There has been complete chaos outside the airport and people are facing a problem in getting through the Taliban check-points both in Kabul and outside provinces to get to the airport.  At least 20 people have been killed in and around the airport last week.

Also read: Biden’s bid to evacuate 22,000 at-risk Afghans faces Taliban barrier