- Taliban says extension will ‘provoke a reaction if they are intent on continuing the occupation’
- Taliban will not announce the makeup of its government until the US completes its troop withdrawal
- There are fears ISIS will ‘take advantage’ and mount a suicide bombing at Kabul airport
The Taliban has threatened a ‘reaction’ and warned of ‘consequences’ if the US or UK do not leave Afghanistan by August 31 and extend the deadline for the withdrawal of troops.
President Joe Biden wants all Americans to have left the country by the end of the month although he admitted on Sunday night that an extension was under discussion, while this morning UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the evacuation effort is ‘down to hours now, not weeks’.
Taliban spokesman Dr Suhail Shaheen said the group will not accept an extension to the deadline and warned of retaliation if Western forces extend their ‘occupation’ since the group dramatically swept to power.
He told Sky News: ‘It’s 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.
‘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.’
Biden appeared to push back on extending the August 31 deadline last night, saying the evacuation process is going to be ‘hard and painful’ and there will be ‘discussions’ about how long it will take.
With a huge backlog at the airport, US officials have ordered troops to only allow American citizens, Green Card holders and other foreign nationals through the gates of Kabul airport to board evacuation flights.
Boris Johnson is expected to press Biden and other G7 leaders to delay the final withdrawal in a virtual call tomorrow, with the UK hoping to double the number of Britons, Afghan allies and families it can airlift to 12,000, while France also called for more time and Germany is holding talks with NATO and the Taliban on keeping the airport open next month.
There are also growing fears that ISIS will mount a suicide bombing at Kabul airport amid the chaos of the evacuation as extremists try to ‘take advantage’ of the desperate airlift to attack UK and US forces.
British ministers have revealed that individuals on the UK’s terror ‘no fly list’ have already tried to get on board RAF planes in the Afghan capital.
Meanwhile the Taliban said they will not announce the makeup of the new government until all troops have been withdrawn, saying: ‘It has been decided that the formation of the government and cabinet will not be announced as long as a single US soldier is present in Afghanistan.’
Joe Biden said last night: ‘Let me be clear – the evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful.
‘No matter when it started, when we began. It would have been true if we had started a month ago, or a month from now.
‘There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss and heartbreaking images you see on television. It’s just a fact.’
He said about 11,000 people were lifted out of Kabul in less than 36 hours, bringing the total to 33,000, and said defence officials ‘hope’ they will not have to extend the evacuation operation.
However in a glimmer of hope that an extension was still possible, he added: ‘There are going to be discussions I suspect on how far along we are in the process.
‘Our first priority in Kabul is getting American citizens out of the situation as quickly and safely as possible,’ Biden said.
‘Any American that wants to get home will get home.’
He also said the US government is ‘looking to move our Afghan allies’ out of the country as well, noting that citizens of NATO allies and Afghan allies were amongst the 11,000 individuals evacuated this past weekend.
He added that US forces had expanded the perimeter around the airport amid fears terrorists may seek to exploit the operation by attacking Americans or Afghan civilians.
Delta and United Airlines have offered planes to help fly those who have already been evacuated to their final destinations.
But the US is now only evacuating their own citizens, Green Card holders and other foreign nationals from Kabul airport, leaving thousands of Afghans potentially stranded.
Troops have been processing both Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans like translators or others who helped in the war, and most of the US evacuation flights have been full of Afghan nationals so far.
Thirty-three C-17 jets are on the way to the airport that could carry 600 passengers each – 19,800 total – out of the dangerous city, but CNN cites an unnamed official who said the policy was changing to only allow US citizens, foreign citizens from other NATO countries, or Green Card holders through the gates.
No one from the White House, State Department or Pentagon has been able to give a number for how many American citizens remain in Afghanistan.
It’s unclear if or when the US will start flying Afghans out again.
In his sit-down interview, Dr Shaheen also claimed people are not fleeing Afghanistan because they are scared, saying it was purely ‘economic migration’, despite the desperate scenes at Kabul airport.
He added it was ‘fake news’ that girls’ schools are being closed amid reports of the Taliban going door to door and threatening people while seeking former government workers.
Many women are fearful that the new regime will erode rights which they have fought for.
But Dr Shaheen insisted: ‘They will lose nothing. Only if they have no hijab, they will have a hijab… women are required to have the same rights as you have in your country but with a hijab.’
He added that women teachers and journalists are continuing to work despite the recent upheaval, despite stories of women being scared to leave their homes and return to work.
This story first appeared in Daily Mail, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9918373/Taliban-warn-consequences-Britain-try-extend-August-31-withdrawal-deadline.html?ito=social-twitter_dailymailus