PM calls for meeting of world leaders as Biden faces backlash over Afghanistan withdrawal

17 August 2021, 16:05 | Updated: 17 August 2021, 20:38

The Prime Minister has called for a meeting of the UN Security Council, as Biden faces backlash over withdrawal of US troops
The Prime Minister has called for a meeting of the UN Security Council, as Biden faces backlash over withdrawal of US troops. Picture: @PSFAERO

By Sophie Barnett

Boris Johnson has called for a meeting of world leaders on how to respond to the Taliban's takeover of Afghanistan, as Joe Biden faces backlash over the "messy" withdrawal of US troops.

The Prime Minister is trying to organise a meeting of the UN Security Council - which, as well as Britain, includes the US, China, France and Russia - at the "earliest opportunity".

It comes after Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab admitted there was shock at how quickly the takeover of Kabul happened.

The Prime Minister raised the idea of a G7 meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a call on Tuesday and did the same during talks with French President Emmanuel Macron on Monday.

The gathering would extend even further than the G7 alliance of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and US, with the Prime Minister keen for leading economies to act together on choosing how to broach relations with a Taliban-led state in Afghanistan.

UK armed forces assist citizens with evacuation of Afghanistan

His calls follow Joe Biden's address to the nation on Monday, where he said he "stood squarely behind" his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Read more: Joe Biden says he 'stands squarely behind' decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan

Read more: Taliban soldiers seen riding bumper cars with guns as they take over amusement park

The US President admitted things have become worse more quickly than expected, however he said "there was never a good time to withdraw US forces".

He blamed the situation on Afghanistan political leaders fleeing the country and said the Afghan military had collapsed "sometimes without trying to fight".

Biden's remarks drew anger and regret from a number of senior Conservatives, including Theresa May’s former chief of staff Gavin Barwell.

“After [Biden’s] speech last night, it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee,” he tweeted. “The US will remain a key ally where its vital interests are involved, but neither Democrats nor Republicans any longer believe the US should be the world’s policeman."

The US media has also blasted the President for his "blame shifting", with the Washington Post describing his comments as "defiant and defensive".

Meanwhile, Mr Johnson and Mrs Merkel have agreed that "global co-operation was crucial" following the new administration in Kabul.

No 10 said the Prime Minister plans to use a G7 meeting to focus on ensuring Afghanistan does not once again become a source of international terrorist threats, as it did in the 1990s when it harboured al Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.

Read more: Explained the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan: What we know and what's next

Earlier today, Boris Johnson spoke to Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Afghanistan.

The PM said the "legitimacy of any future Taliban government will be subject to them upholding internationally agreed standards on human rights and inclusivity".

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister stressed his commitment to work with international partners to avoid a humanitarian disaster in Afghanistan and the wider region.

“The Prime Minister underlined that any recognition of the new government in Afghanistan to happen on an international, not unilateral basis. He said that any the legitimacy of any future Taliban government will be subject to them upholding internationally agreed standards on human rights and inclusivity.

“The Prime Minister and Prime Minister Khan agreed their governments will keep in close contact in the coming days on the evolving situation.”

But politicians and defence experts warned that terrorists will be free to operate under the new administration in Kabul.

The warnings come as Downing Street said Mr Johnson is planning to unveil a "bespoke" resettlement scheme to allow fleeing Afghans to set up home in the UK shortly.

The scheme will prioritise women and girls, who face severe repression under Taliban governance.

An extreme form of sharia law is expected to be reinstated by the Taliban, as was in place prior to allied intervention in 2001. This would include public executions and amputation of limbs for criminal offences, as well as strict restrictions on women’s rights and freedom of speech.

Women could face being unable to work or be educated, as well as being forced to wear a burka and being unable to leave their home without a male relative.

A Taliban spokesperson has insisted however, that girls will have access to education and work under its new regime in Afghanistan.

There have been concerns about the insurgents' treatment of women - but the group says they'll only have to follow Islamic rules.

The situation at Kabul airport has now restored, according to Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key, Joint Chief of Operations.

He said flights are now able to carry out evacuations, but added that, despite ongoing efforts, uncertainty remains.

Hundreds of civilians flooded to Kabul airport on Monday after the Taliban seized control of the city over the weekend.

There are also around 4,000 people waiting to be evacuated back to Britain, including British nationals, diplomats, charity workers and Afghan special forces.

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