Taliban warns Aug. 31 is a ‘red line’ for withdrawing US forces

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Taliban warns Aug. 31 is a 'red line' for withdrawing US forces

​The Taliban is warning President Biden that extending the Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan as the administration struggles to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies from the country would ​bring “consequences.”

“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on ​Aug. 31 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​,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News. ​

“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences​,” he said, adding that extending the deadline would “create mistrust between us.”​

Prolonging the “occupation,” he said, will “provoke a reaction.”​

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen warns that prolonging the “occupation,” he said, will “provoke a reaction.”​
REUTERS/Tatyana Makeyeva

Biden speaking at the White House Sunday said he has had discussions about allowing the US to remain past Aug. 31 to continue to provide security at Hamid Karzai International Airport outside Kabul as the evacuations continue. ​

“​There’s discussions going on among us and the military about extending. Our hope is we will not have to extend, but there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process​,” Biden said.​​

He said he would raise the topic with leaders of the G-7 countries when he meets virtually with them on Tuesday. ​​

A Taliban fighter stands guard at a checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan.
President Biden intends to discuss the extension with G-7 leaders on Tuesday.
AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

Meanwhile, ​Rep. Michael McCaul, the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the US is without intelligence in Afghanistan outside the Kabul airport, ​handing a win to the Taliban, Russia, China and Iran.

“The Taliban, their stripes just got bigger,” McCaul of Texas said on Fox News.

“We have no intelligence on the ground now,” he added. “We are completely dark. With the exception of the airport we will be dark.”

He characterized the situation as a “nightmare unfolding before your very eyes,” and said the US has failed to set up intelligence capabilities in neighboring countries.

U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX)
U.S. Representative Michael McCaul (R-TX) said the US is without intelligence in Afghanistan outside the Kabul airport, ​handing a win to the Taliban, Russia, China and Iran.
Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA via AP

Over the past weeks, the Biden administration has closed the Bagram air base and the US Embassy in Kabul​ as the Taliban carried out swift military operations on its way to taking over the country. 

“That is a victory, not only for the Taliban but for Russia, China and Iran because we can’t see their activities in the region anymore​,” he said. ​

The evacuations of Americans and at-risk Afghans who assisted the US military during the 20-year war has been fraught with peril. 

The Taliban have been beating and harassing people as they pass through checkpoints the insurgents have set up on the streets leading to the airport. 

And the airport itself is enveloped in chaos amid sporadic gunfire and a stampede that killed an Afghan toddler. 

A Taliban fighter stands guard at a checkpoint in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood in the city of Kabul, Afghanistan.
The evacuations of Americans and at-risk Afghans who assisted the US military during the 20-year war has been made difficult due to sporadic gun-fights and stampeding at the airport.
AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

US aircraft have also been conducting combat landings and setting off flares at the airport because of possible missile attacks by ISIS fighters. ​

McCaul said​ his pleas to members of the administration to evacuate Afghan interpreters fell on deaf ears.

“They completely failed to do so,” McCaul said. “The intelligence community was very clear and had gave a very grim assessment about the conditions on the ground. The Biden administration chose to ignore that intelligence.”

“This decision will have long-term ramifications for the United States’ standing in the world,” McCaul ​said.​​

He also said the Taliban are still working with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan, where they can plan attacks on America or its allies.​

He ​predicted Afghanistan would become “a breeding ground for terrorism.”

S​haheen, the Taliban spokesman, dismissed the images of Afghans storming into Hamid Karzai International Airport and clinging to US aircraft in a desperate attempt to flee the country.

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen also said that Afghans leaving the country are due to economic concerns and not out of a desire for sanctuary.
AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

​”I assure you it is not about being worried or scared​,” Shaheen said in the interview.​

“They want to reside in Western countries and that 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​,” he said.

He called reports that the Taliban are ​going door-to-door searching for Afghans who assisted the US and government officials “not based on realities.”

“I can assure you there are many reports by our opponents claiming what is not based on realities​,” Shaheen said. ​

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