The Taliban have said they will not allow an extension of the deadline for the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan, set at 31. “It’s a red line,” spokesman Suhail Shaheen said.
“If the United States or the United Kingdom seeks more time to continue the evacuation, the answer is no. Or there will be consequences. If they intend to continue the occupation, it will cause a backlash. “, he wrote on Twitter.
The ultimatum comes amid the desperate Western operation to evacuate Afghan citizens and their allies via the Kabul airport, where the United States and other countries now maintain their last diplomatic presence in the country.
The Taliban overthrew Ashraf Ghani’s government last Sunday (15), after an overwhelming two-week military campaign.
The group was ousted from power in 2001 by the United States, which attacked Afghanistan to house the al-Qaeda network when terrorists planned and carried out the 9/11 attacks.
Since then, there has been a rush to get Westerners and civilians out of the country fearing a return to the medieval Taliban regime, which ruled mercilessly from 1996 to 2001 and now promises to act in moderation, though few believe it. . 37,000 people have already been evacuated, according to the United States.
But the turmoil continues, even though there have been no more scenes like the invasion of the airport runway, with Afghans falling to their deaths after clinging to a taking off US freighter.
On Monday (23) at least one Afghan serviceman working with Westerners was killed in a shootout with unidentified people, bringing the number of those killed in the evacuation operation to 21 – many were crushed in the endless lines around the airport. .
The August 31 deadline was set by US President Joe Biden and was the trigger for the Taliban offensive. At the beginning, more than 95% of the American troops had already left the country. With the evacuation crisis, some 6,000 military personnel were sent by Washington to try to control the chaos.
Other countries, such as the UK, Germany and France, also sent men. The number of people yet to be evacuated, especially Afghans working with Westerners and fearing retaliation from the Taliban, is uncertain.
Therefore, the British government should suggest to the American the extension of the deadline, according to the British press. Prime Minister Boris Johnson intends to take the idea to Biden at the G7 virtual meeting on Tuesday (24). This led to the reaction of the Taliban.
On Sunday (22), Biden had said troops could stay longer than the deadline if necessary. “Be clear. Evacuating thousands of people from Kabul will be difficult and painful. We have a long way to go and a lot can go wrong,” he said.
It is a modulation of speech in the face of the global debacle that the humiliation of the Taliban’s return to power and the chaotic scenes that followed gave Biden.
Supported by the American’s boredom with the 20 years of war, which cost 2.3 trillion dollars and 170,000 lives (mostly Afghans) according to a study by Brown University, the president announced in April that he would comply with the peace agreement sewn up by his predecessor, Donald Trump, with the Taliban.
But there was a huge intelligence error along the way, as the U.S. government said it was surprised at how quickly Ghani’s forces fell. The “Saigon moment”, in reference to the flight from the South Vietnamese capital when the Communists took it in 1975, has happened to Biden.
In addition to the humanitarian issue, other problems arise from the situation at the airport. About 500 tons of drugs are blocked due to the crisis, in a country where half of the population receives some form of external aid.
Meanwhile, the Taliban continue to try to organize a functioning government. On Monday, he appointed an interim president of the central bank, who will have the almost impossible task of recovering the roughly $ 9 billion the country has in foreign exchange reserves, mainly in the United States.
Shahenn said, however, that the country will not have a new de facto government until all Westerners leave Kabul.
At the same time, the Taliban announced on Monday that it had surrounded the remaining forces opposing them in the Panjshir valley, 100 km northwest of the capital.
The region is historically resistant to the group for tribal reasons: it is predominantly Tajik and Uzbek, while the fundamentalists are of Pashtun origin, the main ethnic group in the country (40% of the 37 million inhabitants).
During the Taliban era, the roughly 10% of Afghan territory where the valley lies was never conquered, being ruled by the old Northern Alliance.
A replay of the rebel group is being repeated as the National Resistance Front, led by former Vice President Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, the son of legendary First Alliance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who died in 2001 .
According to spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban do not want to enter into a direct confrontation with the rebels, but rather to negotiate an agreement. Indeed, there has been no fighting in the region since last Thursday (19), and the Russian ambassador in Kabul served as an intermediary between the parties.
If peace is achieved, it will be a diplomatic objective for Vladimir Putin, who is seeking a post of regional mediator, aiming for stability on his Central Asian flank. China, on the other hand, has more strongly supported the Taliban, seeking to be the guarantor of a controlled situation on its western border.