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Foreign countries are now on the clock to get personnel evacuated from Afghanistan. Photo: Wakil Khosar/AFP via Getty Images.
Foreign countries are now on the clock to get personnel evacuated from Afghanistan. Photo: Wakil Khosar/AFP via Getty Images.

The countdown to leaving Afghanistan has begun

The Taliban warned that extending the international presence beyond Aug. 31 will mean crossing a red line. The G7 is meeting on Aug. 24 to decide what to do.

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International troops are in a race against time to get all their personnel and collaborators out of Afghanistan. The Taliban have announced that extending the international presence beyond Aug. 31 will mean crossing a red line they are not willing to accept. The G7 is meeting today to decide what to do.

The White House has confirmed that in 24 hours, it has chartered 28 military flights to evacuate 10,400 Afghans. It's a record compared to previous figures. Between 5,000 and 9,000 people were removed from the country on Monday, Aug. 23 — an effort boycotted by the Taliban blocking access to the airport and by the crowds at its doors.

The rest of the countries with personnel on the ground also face a desperate struggle to get their collaborators out of the country. Many hoped they could extend the Aug. 31 deadline, but in the last hours, their wishes have become unrealistic and the situation may be even more insecure and volatile at the beginning of September.

Despite this, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is pushing for Biden to extend the evacuation. The G7 summit that begins on Aug. 24 will try to clarify whether it is possible to negotiate a few more days for an international presence in Kabul to ensure the departure of the thousands of Afghans threatened by the Taliban.

But arrival at the airport is a hellish gymkhana.

As the Chilean documentary filmmaker Jorge Said explained in El País from Kabul, “to access the metal gate you have to jump over a wire fence and then save a kind of channel that serves as a two-meter deep pit and another two meters wide, through which they run dirty waters. In the middle of the stream, there is a barbed wire. On each side of the pit, there are hundreds of people waiting. Inside, too."

If the Taliban enter the airport on Sept. 1, there are only eight days left to evacuate all those whose lives are in danger. The British ambassador admitted on Aug. 23 that the signals of the Taliban "are quite inflexible" and it does not seem possible that the operation could be extended beyond the end of August.

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