Ben Wallace: Taliban could start mortaring Kabul Airport if forces stay past deadline

24 August 2021, 09:25 | Updated: 24 August 2021, 09:30

By Emma Soteriou

Taliban could start mortaring Kabul Airport if UK and US forces stay beyond the 31 August deadline, the defence secretary has said.

It comes as Prime Minister Boris Johnson is set to push Joe Biden to extend his deadline of withdrawal from Afghanistan at the emergency G7 summit on Tuesday.

The militant group has since warned, however, that there will be consequences if there is an extension, saying it will "provoke a reaction".

Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari, Ben Wallace said: "I think, with the Taliban themselves, they have a range of tools, including military action.

"They have the ability to stop the checkpoints, to stop flows to airports, they have the ability to, effectively, prevent people getting out and then they, obviously, have the military means to disrupt the airport.

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"If you start mortaring an airport, for example, the runway closes and then you all end up going nowhere.

"I absolutely don't take that as a clever play on words, using the word 'consequences'.

"This is the Taliban we're talking about and I think what they're trying to say is, 'you agreed on a 31st deadline originally' - I think August 31st was a selected deadline originally by the United States - and they expect us to stick to it.

"They may change their mind and we'll see what the G7 does today."

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When later asked by Nick Ferrari about the potential measures in place if there is a last-minute shooting war, Mr Wallace said: "Obviously, all military personnel have the right of self-defence to protect themselves and protect civilians immediately near them.

"I suspect that it will be a mixture of- well I can't speculate what we would do but we certainly have plans, if we're attacked, to defend ourselves.

"I don't think anyone wants this to turn into a shooting war in the last few days."

He added: "I don't think they want a shooting war either. They want us out as quickly as possible and we want to get out with as many people as possible."