UK to “push for sanctions” on Taliban at G7 meeting

August 24, 2021 - 13:31

Sources say Britain plans to push world leaders to consider new sanctions on the Taliban when the G7 group of advanced economies meets on Tuesday to discuss the crisis in Afghanistan.

British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, who currently leads the group that includes the United States, Italy, France, Germany, Japan, and Canada, has called for the virtual meeting, in the wake of the Taliban's swift takeover of Afghanistan. 

According to a British government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, and a second Western diplomat, Britain believes the G7 should consider economic sanctions and withhold aid if the Taliban commits human rights abuses and allows its territory to be used as a haven for militants. 

Critics say by withholding vital aid supplies (especially food aid), it would push Afghanistan to the brink and the unknown; the perfect recipe for the break out of violence. 

British Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, first raised the possibility of sanctions to pressure the Taliban last week.

On Sunday Johnson said, "It is vital that the international community works together to ensure safe evacuations, prevent a humanitarian crisis and support the Afghan people to secure the gains of the last 20 years”. 

Analysts say the British Premier is taking a hypocritical approach. On one hand claiming he wants to avoid a humanitarian crisis and on the other hand, pushing for sanctions. 

With the Taliban tightening their grip at the airport, Downing Street says Boris Johnson will personally lobby U.S. President Joe Biden at the G7 leaders’ summit. 

One Western diplomat says sanctions against the Taliban are unlikely to be imposed immediately. 

British government sources say Johnson will also plead with Biden to keep U.S. troops at Kabul airport beyond the end of August, after a weekend of tension between the UK and its closest ally over the chaotic evacuation process. 

That was echoed by British media reports that say Johnson also plans to push Biden to extend his August 31 deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan so that more people can be evacuated. 

The news came as Taliban forces are seeking to assert their own authority, blaming Washington for the “anarchy” at the airport and insisting they were the only ones capable of restoring order. 

Taliban forces have stepped up their efforts to bring order, firing guns into the air and using batons to bring people into orderly queues in an attempt to halt the desperate scenes in which at least 20 people have died.

Speaking at a press conference, Biden suggested that the date for ending evacuations and keeping troops in the country beyond the August 31st deadline was not out of the question, saying discussions were ongoing. He did add that “our hope is we will not have to extend (the deadline).”

Meanwhile, Biden has told reporters that the Taliban had not taken any action against U.S. forces controlling Kabul airport, and had largely followed through on their pledge to let Americans reach the airport safely. 

Asked whether he would support a push for sanctions if the Taliban committed abuses, Biden said, "The answer is yes. It depends on (their) conduct." 

Last week, the Taliban seized control of Kabul in an upheaval that sent civilians and Afghan military allies fleeing for safety. 

Some fear a return to strict rules and laws during the previous Taliban era in power that ended 20 years ago. 

Biden, under fire at home and abroad for his handling of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan, last week said G7 leaders would work out a joint approach to the Taliban and has already held bilateral talks with Johnson, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. 

Biden said Washington would consider an extension if asked to do so by G7 allies, but was working closely with those countries and others to help evacuate their citizens.

On Sunday, the U.S. military said it had ordered commercial aircraft to help transport people who have already been evacuated from Afghanistan and sent to a third country. 

Biden also told reporters that he and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken would work with other countries to set "harsh conditions" for any cooperation with or recognition of the Taliban, based on their treatment of Afghans and overall human rights record.