France has joined the US and UK in seeking additional time beyond next week’s Aug. 31 deadline to finish evacuations from the Afghan capital Kabul, the French foreign minister said Monday.
Speaking at Al-Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates alongside Defense Minister Florence Parly, Jean-Yves Le Drian said "additional time" is "necessary" to organize evacuations from Afghanistan.
"We are concerned about the deadline set by the US of Aug. 31. More time is needed to complete the current operations," Le Drian was quoted by France Info as saying.
US President Joe Biden also said Monday that more time may be needed, prompting Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen to reject any extension, calling Aug. 31 a “red line.”
Le Drian added that the "main concern is access" to the Kabul airport, adding that there is a need “to increase our coordination locally, with the United States and our partners there."
Later, David Martinon, the French ambassador to Kabul, tweeted that French forces coordinated with US troops to provide security to 260 members of the local EU delegation to bring them to the airport, adding: “Bravo to the EU."
‘Minimal’ evacuations still an achievement
The airport itself is under control of US troops, but Taliban forces have se up multiple checkpoints on the road leading to the airport. The Taliban have said Afghans should not leave the country
Le Drian and Parly are in the UAE to thank the Emiratis for facilitating flight rotations between Kabul-Abu Dhabi and Paris. Under Operation APAGAN launched on Aug 15, France is carrying out its rescue mission through French forces stationed permanently in the UAE.
France has so far carried 14 airlift rotations between Kabul and Paris. By Tuesday, Le Drian said nearly 2,000 people will have been evacuated, including 90 French nationals, and the rest former local staff of the French military or at-risk Afghans and their families. The numbers of evacuees is minimal, he said, because France had been carrying out its repatriation operation months in advance, long before last week’s fall of Kabul.
But he added that the ongoing evacuation is extremely difficult and each airlift is an achievement in itself.
France has the moral duty to extract Afghans who are at risk of persecution and show solidarity with Afghanistan through action in such difficult conditions, he said.
At least 1,300 Afghan nationals had reached Paris as of Monday. They will be eligible to apply for asylum status.
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