Biden to meet G7 leaders amidst growing Afghan fissures

The meeting will build on President Biden’s calls this week with the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden depart after a service at the Holy Trinity church in the Georgetown neighbourhood in Washington, DC on Saturday. (AFP)
US President Joe Biden and First Lady Jill Biden depart after a service at the Holy Trinity church in the Georgetown neighbourhood in Washington, DC on Saturday. (AFP)
Updated on Aug 22, 2021 11:28 PM IST
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By Yashwant Raj I Edited by Amit Chanda

US President Joe Biden will meet his G7 counterparts on Tuesday on Afghanistan amidst growing signs of unease and disquiet among allies with the American leader’s pullout decision, which is now playing out around the world in heart-wrenching scenes unfolding at the Kabul airport.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said on Sunday the leaders, who will meet virtually, will discuss “continuing our close coordination on Afghanistan” and also plans to provide humanitarian assistance and support for Afghan refugees”.

The meeting, she added, will build on President Biden’s calls this week with the UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel, France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

There was no mention of the simmering tensions and differences among them, which have emerged and persisted despite Biden’s claims to the contrary. “We are united with our closest partners,” he said on Friday, adding that he had kept them informed, specially at meetings of the G7 in London and Nato in Brussels in June.

“Every one of them knew and agreed with the decision I made to ... jointly end our involvement in Afghanistan,” he said.

But there are clear and growing signs of disquiet among these allies.

Johnson - leader of the closest US ally - had requested to speak to Biden on Sunday, but did not get a call back until Tuesday. He has since been grilled by British lawmakers in parliament - “faced a wall of fury”, as The Guardian put it - which also condemned Biden’s decision in the sharpest terms.

The Financial Times reported that British defence secretary Ben Wallace had appeared on the verge of tears on Monday as he said that “some would not get back” from the war-torn country. “It’s sad. Twenty years of sacrifice is what it is,” he added. Wallace had tried earlier in the year to put together a coalition of countries to keep some troops in Afghanistan.

In a call on Thursday, French President Emmanuel Macron “underscored the absolute need for swift, concrete coordination between the allies to ensure the evacuation of our citizens, Afghan men and women who worked for the allies, and those who are in danger”, according to this office.

“The head of state emphasised our collective moral responsibility towards the Afghan men and women who need our protection and who share our values. We cannot abandon them,” the office added.

The White House readout of the same call did not mention the phrase or reflect that sentiment.

And German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s successor Amin Laschet has called the pullout the “the greatest debacle that Nato has experienced since its foundation”.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021