Judge Taliban 'by deeds not words': PM calls on G7 to step up support for Afghans

23 August 2021, 22:30 | Updated: 24 August 2021, 00:58

Boris Johnson will urge G7 leaders to up their support of Afghan refugees and to agree a joint approach to handling the Taliban occupation
Boris Johnson will urge G7 leaders to up their support of Afghan refugees and to agree a joint approach to handling the Taliban occupation. Picture: Alamy

By Daisy Stephens

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will call on G7 leaders to step up their support for Afghan refugees at the meeting on Tuesday afternoon, saying that the Taliban should be "judged by their deeds and not their words".

Speaking ahead of the meeting, Mr Johnson said that evacuating British citizens and Afghans who assisted the UK’s efforts was the "first priority", but once that was complete it would be "vital" that leaders "come together as an international community and agree a joint approach for the longer term".

"That’s why I’ve called an emergency meeting of the G7 - to coordinate our response to the immediate crisis, to reaffirm our commitment to the Afghan people, and to ask our international partners to match the UK’s commitments to support those in need," said Mr Johnson.

"Together with our partners and allies, we will continue to use every humanitarian and diplomatic lever to safeguard human rights and protect the gains made over the last two decades.

"The Taliban will be judged by their deeds and not their words."

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It comes as the Military of Defence (MoD) announced that the UK had evacuated more than 7,000 people from Kabul since August 13.

A total of 7,109 have been evacuated, including embassy staff, British nationals, those eligible under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP) programme and a number of nationals from partner nations.

The MoD said the evacuation process will run as long as the security situation allows in coordination with the US.

No firm date has yet been set for the end of evacuation flights, it added.

US President Joe Biden is reportedly due to make a decision on whether to extend the deadline for the withdrawal of US troops within the next 24 hours.

The meeting of G7 leaders, chaired by Mr Johnson, will take place virtually, and will also be attended by the NATO and UN Secretaries-General.

Mr Johnson is expected to encourage G7 leaders to continue to stand by Afghan people, and will also call on countries to match the UK’s commitments to protect those most in need in Afghanistan and bolster aid to the region.

The UK has doubled the amount of humanitarian aid to the country, as well as introducing a bespoke resettlement scheme which promises to relocate up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghans.

Read more: Brits gather mountains of donations for Afghan refugees arriving in UK

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The meeting is also expected to see leaders discussing a joint approach to securing a more stable future for Afghanistan, which has hung in the balance since the Taliban retook control of most of the country.

Leaders are expected to reiterate their commitment to safeguarding the gains made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years - in particular on girls’ education and the rights of women and minorities.

There have been fears that the Taliban takeover could see Afghanistan return to the kind of regime it had in the 90s, which saw limited rights for women and girls and public executions as punishment for breaking the Taliban's strict rules.

The group say they have changed, and that their regime will safeguard many of the rights that women and girls have had over the past 20 years.

However, whether this is the case remains to be seen.

Read more: Kamala Harris sidesteps questions about US policies in Afghanistan

Read more: One killed by gunfire amid chaotic evacuations at Kabul airport

British-Afghan activist Shabnam Nasimi told LBC that history is "repeating itself all over again" in Afghanistan and that anyone "telling you the Taliban has changed is lying".

"The Taliban have already sentenced the brother of an Afghan interpreter to death, according to letters obtained by CNN," she told LBC’s Andrew Castle.

"A friend of mine, his brother who was a general in the Afghan army has been captured and very sadly killed.

"It's naive and laughable if anyone believes this group has changed, these are only PR operations and they're repeating the same thing they did in 1996 claiming that they come in peace, they do not seek revenge, and they want an inclusive society."