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The short answer is that they think they can work with the Taliban.

Sure. Pull the other one.

American and British troops have left Afghanistan. The countries’ embassies there are now closed.

Yet, they pledged at the weekend that evacuations would continue. How?

British general criticises withdrawal

General Lord Dannatt, who once commanded the British army, criticised the withdrawal, according to the Times on Monday, August 30 (emphases mine):

General Lord Dannatt, the former head of the army, called for an inquiry into the handling of the withdrawal, accusing the government of being “asleep on watch” despite having had months to prepare. He told Times Radio: “We should have done better.”

He accused ministers of putting Afghanistan on the back burner only to find “when the Taliban took over the country in the precipitate fashion in which they did, it fell off the cooker straight on to the kitchen floor”.

The deaths of 457 British military personnel were not in vain, he said, because progress had been made in Afghanistan. He said, however, that “the precipitant decision by Joe Biden to end the operation of all international forces quickly meant that the gains we had made crumbled pretty quickly”.

Meanwhile, the same article said that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab continues to come under fire for having been on holiday in Crete during the weekend of August 14 and 15. He appeared before the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, September 1. I haven’t watched the hearing yet; it can be found here:

Senior government sources predicted that Raab would lose his job in the next reshuffle because of his handling of the crisis. They said the foreign secretary was a “control freak” who struggled to entrust work to officials despite controversy over his decision to stay on holiday in Crete as Kabul fell to the Taliban.

However, Raab’s allies defended him:

insisting that it was “laughable” to blame him alone for the hurried retreat from Afghanistan.

They blamed the Ministry of Defence for failing to anticipate the speed with which Kabul would fall and hit out at the Home Office for failing to finalise details of the Afghan resettlement scheme. The absence of clear criteria was hampering Britain’s ability to negotiate with other countries over refugees, the sources suggested.

The UK government plan to rescue refugees

I do not see how the British plan to rescue more refugees will work in the cold light of day, especially with a terror threat clearly looming.

The Times article says that foreign aid will be part of the plan:

Britain’s key initial demand is that the Taliban allow thousands of refugees safe passage out of Afghanistan but the focus is likely to shift soon to preventing the country from becoming a haven for terrorists, as it was in the late 1990s.

Aid will be used to encourage good behaviour. Ministers see Afghanistan as a first test of their decision to abolish the Department for International Development so that aid could be better aligned with foreign policy goals.

Officials believe that the Taliban see the looming humanitarian crisis as a threat to their legitimacy in the eyes of Afghans and think that western aid will be needed to mitigate it.

Sir Laurie Bristow, Britain’s ambassador to Afghanistan, thinks the embassy in Kabul can be reopened:

Sir Laurie Bristow, the British ambassador to Afghanistan, was among those who returned home yesterday. On the runway at RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire he promised to reopen an embassy as soon as possible and to “do everything we can to protect the gains of the last 20 years”.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is nearly ready to make a deal with the Taliban. Some think that there could be a Taliban embassy in London in future. Good grief:

Warned that the risk of terrorism would increase, he promised to “use every lever we have — political, economic, diplomatic — to help the people of Afghanistan and to protect our own country from harm”.

He hinted yesterday that the Taliban could win diplomatic recognition if they kept terrorism in check and allowed western allies still in Afghanistan to leave. “If the new regime in Kabul wants diplomatic recognition . . . they will have to ensure safe passage for those who wish to leave the country, to respect the rights of women and girls, to prevent Afghanistan from again becoming an incubator for global terror.”

His words raise the prospect of a Taliban embassy in London, which officials said would happen only as part of a joint approach with G7 allies after a new government was formed.

The UK government accepts that it will have to deal with a new Afghan government dominated by hardliners and has adopted a carrot-and-stick approach now that troops have left.

International plea for release of Afghans

On Sunday, August 29, in a joint statement, 90 countries asked the Taliban to commit to releasing more Afghan citizens:

Britain was among 90 governments that released a joint statement yesterday saying that they had a “clear expectation of and commitment from the Taliban that [Afghan allies] can travel to our respective countries”.

The Daily Mail has more on the statement:

The statement said: ‘We have received assurances from the Taliban that all foreign nationals and any Afghan citizen with travel authorization from our countries will be allowed to proceed in a safe and orderly manner to points of departure and travel outside the country.’

I cannot see that happening, even though I hope it does.

I am not alone:

many senior figures in the West fear the Taliban will fail to live up to the pledge amid concerns the number of Afghans left behind who may be eligible for resettling is actually far higher than initial Government estimates.

Too right. The Taliban will agree to anything then renege.

How evacuation schemes work

There were three evacuation programmes in place in Afghanistan during Britain’s Operation Pitting, which ended at the weekend. Approximately 15,000 people had been evacuated over the past fortnight.

Foreign Office Minister James Cleverly MP explained to Sky News how the evacuation schemes worked:

Asked how many people were left behind, Mr Cleverly told Sky News: ‘Well, that’s an impossible number to put a figure on. We had three methods by which, or vehicles by which, people could leave Afghanistan.

‘Obviously British nationals, we have a much better idea of how many British nationals were in AfghanistanThe vast, vast bulk of British nationals have now left Afghanistan.

The Arap scheme, those Afghans, interpreters and others, who had worked directly for us and with us, have their scheme.

But also we extended to Afghans who were at risk of reprisals and there was no set number of people in that third group.’

He admitted that many people were not evacuated:

Mr Cleverly did not deny reports that hundreds of emails sent to the Foreign Office from people trying to get out of the country had been left unopened

He said: ‘Well, you have got to remember that when we extended our evacuation efforts to Afghan nationals we of course received a flood of requests and those were worked through and they will continue to be worked through.

‘But I know my own inbox had a huge number of emails came through, some duplicates, and of course we focused on the people who were at the airport who were being processed and who we felt that we could get out through Kabul airport whilst we still had security of Kabul airport.

‘We will of course continue to work through applications from people who have contacted us, people who are still trying to get out of Afghanistan.’  

Cleverly told Sky News that the UK government is sceptical of the Taliban but is committed to working with them:

‘Well, we have always said, I think the Prime Minister has said very recently, that we will judge the Taliban by their actions,’ he said …

Obviously we are sceptical about those commitments but we will continue working with them to an extent, based on their conduct, to try and facilitate that further evacuation and repatriation effort.’

The American approach

On Sunday, Joe Biden looked at his watch while the coffins of 13 American servicemen from last week’s bombing at Kabul’s airport arrived at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware:

The Daily Mail reported:

President Joe Biden is under fire after appearing to look at his watch just seconds after a salute honoring the return of the 13 US servicemembers killed in Thursday’s ISIS-K suicide bombing in Kabul. 

The president made the unannounced trip to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Sunday morning as the caskets of the 13 service members killed in the attack were brought back to the United States.

He stood in silence, his right hand to his chest, as a succession of flag draped transfer coffins were carried past him from a C-17 Globemaster plane.

But during the ceremony, Biden appears to jerk his left arm up and look down at his watch.

The 13 killed on Thursday were Navy corpsman Max Soviak, Army Staff Sergeant Ryan Knauss, and Marines Hunter Lopez, Rylee McCollum, David Lee Espinoza, Kareem Nikoui, Jared Schmitz, Daegan Page, Taylor Hoover, Humberto Sanchez, Johanny Rosario, Dylan Merola and Nicole Gee.

Biden’s stupidity rightly attracted a barrage of criticism from military veterans and Republican politicians.

After a US drone strike killed two ISIS-K men, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is currently co-ordinating international efforts for the days ahead. This began with a virtual meeting on Monday, August 30:

On Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will host a virtual meeting to discuss a coordinated approach for the days ahead, as the U.S. completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover of the country.

The meeting will also include Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, Turkey, the European Union and NATO.  

Biden stuck with his decision to have a full withdrawal by Tuesday, August 31.

US-led evacuation flights took more than 114,000 people out of Afghanistan. Troops and diplomats followed.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan:

pledged the US ‘will make sure there is safe passage for any American citizen, any legal permanent resident’ after Tuesday, as well as for ‘those Afghans who helped us’.

Air strikes will continue:

He said the US would continue strikes against IS and consider ‘other operations to go after these guys, to get them and to take them off the battlefield’

He added: ‘We will continue to bring the fight to the terrorists in Afghanistan to make sure they do not represent a threat to the United States.’ 

There are no plans to reopen the embassy in Kabul, although there are plans for some diplomats to be present:

The administration’s plan ‘is not to have an ongoing embassy presence in Afghanistan’, Mr Sullivan said. 

‘But we will have means and mechanisms of having diplomats on the ground there, be able to continue to process out these applicants, be able to facilitate the passage of other people who want to leave Afghanistan.’ 

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I will be most interested to see how American and British plans work out. I cannot see the feasibility at the moment.

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