A senior Taliban spokesman said the United States and Britain would face “consequences” if they seek to extend military presence to evacuate their citizens, U.K. Sky News reported on Monday.
President Biden announced this summer he would withdrawal all American troops from Afghanistan by August 31. In April, he had informed the exit would end on September 11, the 20th-anniversary attack that prompted the Afghan War. Both of Biden’s dates were a significant extension of the set withdrawal date from President Donald Trump, who made a deal with the Taliban to withdraw by May 1 entirely.
The Taliban followed Biden’s extension of the war – he chooses to break the agreement Trump brokered with the jihadist organization – with the overthrow of the government of Afghanistan. Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country on August 15, as the Taliban surround the country’s capital, Kabul.
The Taliban control nearly all of Afghanistan, except a small pocket in the north-central Pansher province, which on Monday the jihadist claimed they surround and will soon control.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen discussed the current situation in Kabul – where thousands are attempting to reach the airport to avoid being under Taliban rule – with the U.K.’s Sky News, denying that the crowds feared for their safety under the radical Islamist terrorist group. The desperation to flee Taliban rule has prompted multiple deaths in and around the Kabul airport resulting from stampedes and deliberate violence. Eyewitnesses have also reported extensive violence against civilians on the part of Taliban thugs outside the airport, reports the Pentagon confirmed last week.
Shaheen appeared to use the unsubstantiated claim that the Kabul airport chaos did not result from any fear of the Taliban to support the Taliban’s resistance to foreign forces staying in the country to help civilians flee.
The August 31 deadline, Shaheen said, was a “red line.”
“President Biden announced that on 31 August, they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it, that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that,” Shaheen said. “If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences. It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation, it will provoke a reaction.”
Shaheen did not elaborate on what consequences. Western soldiers would face the event that their leader ordered them to remain in the country. In April, following Biden’s announcement he would break the deal, the Taliban organization published an official statement vowing “every necessary countermeasure” against the United States for violating the agreement, suggesting attacks on American troops. In practice, the Taliban limited such attacks. Instead, they focused on forcing the Afghan government out of every corner of the country, including northern regions it never controlled while ruling Afghanistan before the 2001 invasion.
According to Afghanistan’s State Ministry for Peace, the Taliban launched 22,000 attacks on the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF), the national military, between April and July.
On Monday, Shaheen dismissed the necessity of American or British troops staying in the country to support evacuations, arguing that the Taliban’s repeated promises to not target Afghan collaborators with the West or foreign civilians were enough to calm the general population.
“I assure you it is not about being worried or scared,” Shaheen told Sky News about the thousands attempting to flee Kabul. “[T]hat is a kind of economic migration because Afghanistan is a poor country and 70 percent of the people of Afghanistan live under the line of poverty, so everyone wants to resettle in Western countries to have a prosperous life. It is not about [being] scared.”
Shaheen dismissed all video, eyewitness, and other extensive evidence of Taliban jihadis threatening and sometimes attacking people believed to have worked with either the former Afghan government or the United States as “fake news.” On women’s rights, he claimed, “women are required to have the same rights as you have in your country [the United Kingdom] but with a hijab.”
The past Taliban rule required women to wear burqas, a full-body covering that does not show eyes. A hijab is a headscarf that covers the hair.
“Now, women teachers have resumed work—lost nothing. Female journalists have resumed their work. Lost nothing,” Shaheen said.
Women journalists in Afghanistan have vocally protested that Shaheen’s claim is false.
“I wanted to return to work, but unfortunately, they did not allow me to work. They told me that the regime has changed and you cannot work,” Shabnam Khan Dawran, an anchor for Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA), said last week. Beyond banning women from working, Dawran and other professional women in the country have denounced Taliban jihadists preventing women from leaving their homes at all.