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US drafts airlines for Kabul rescue as deadline pressure grows

G7 leaders will discuss the crisis in Afghanistan on Tuesday in a virtual summit.

A US airman comforts an infant during an evacuation.
A US airman comforts an infant during an evacuation.
Image: Sgt Isaiah Campbell/US Marine Corps/AP

Updated Aug 22nd 2021, 2:58 PM

THE US HAS ordered major airlines to help evacuate tens of thousands of its citizens, those of other nations and Afghans, as chaos continues around Kabul airport a week after the Taliban seized control.

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin enacted the rarely used Civil Reserve Air Fleet to order several airlines to help ease the bottleneck of people arriving from Kabul at US bases in the Middle East, the Pentagon said.

About 25,100 people have been evacuated by the US since August 14, but tens of thousands more remain in need of rescue by America alone.

“We’re going to … work as hard as we can to get as many people out as possible. And as we approach that deadline, we’ll make a recommendation to the president,” Austin said in an ABC interview.

‘Mathematically impossible’

Pressure is building on US President Joe Biden to extend the deadline.

British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace expressed support for extending the deadline, warning that “no nation will be able to get everyone out” before August 31.

EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said that “it’s mathematically impossible” to evacuate so many by the end of the month.

The EU diplomatic mission in Kabul has 400 Afghan staff and family members eligible to emigrate to Europe – but only 150 have been able to leave so far.

A third of those on a flight that arrived in Spain on Saturday were Americans, Borrell told AFP.

The Taliban has blamed the US for the chaos at the airport.

“There is peace and calm all over the country, but there is chaos only at Kabul airport,” said Taliban official Amir Khan Mutaqi.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned that militants from Afghanistan could seek to enter other countries under the guise of seeking asylum.

The US ambassador to Kuwait said on Sunday the country had allowed entry to 850 US citizens and diplomatic staff.

More than 7,000 people have been evacuated to Qatar, while 8,500 have gone the United Arab Emirates.

Bahrain’s Gulf Air said a flight will carry evacuees from Isa Air Base to Washington as part of the airlift.

Baby born on flight

An Afghan woman gave birth to a baby girl on a US military plane evacuating to a base in Germany, the Air Mobility Command said.

As of midday on Sunday, about 5,000 people, Americans and Afghans, had arrived at the Ramstein base.

European evacuations

According to Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio, around 1,600 Afghan civilians have been evacuated by Italy in less than a week, out of a target of 2,500.

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Britain has evacuated nearly 4,000 people since August 13 using more than 1,000 troops, according to the defence ministry.

The French army has airlifted around 600 mainly Afghans on five flights out of Kabul in the week. A sixth flight is expected late on Sunday.

Denmark says it has evacuated 450 people, including around 30 Afghan interpreters.

More than 350 people have now landed in Poland from Afghanistan, according to Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz.

A plane landed in Spain overnight with 46 staff from Spain and 64 from the US. Two Spanish military planes also left Kabul on Sunday for Dubai with 177 people – 110 from Spain and 67 from the US.

Austria said at least eight of its nationals had been evacuated, with dozens more as well as Afghans with Austrian residence permits still waiting.

Bulgaria said 20 of its nationals had been evacuated, Romania, more than 45.

Hungary said it had evacuated at least 26 of its national

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