-UK urges US President to extend Kabul airlift amid chaos at Kabul Airport
KABUL: The Taliban on Monday said that they will not extend the deadline for Western forces to leave Afghanistan.
Spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the BBC’s Yalda Hakim that 31 August was a red line and that any extension would be a “clear violation” of the Doha agreement between the United States and the Taliban.
According to the Associated Press, Britain urged the United States on Monday to extend its evacuation effort in Kabul past the Aug. 31 deadline, but conceded that if the U.S. ignores the request, an international airlift of thousands fleeing the Taliban takeover will end within days.
The U.K. government said Prime Minister Boris Johnson would formally press President Joe Biden for an airlift extension at an emergency summit of Group of Seven leaders on Tuesday. The virtual meeting has been convened by Britain, currently the president of the rich nations’ club.
The Taliban will not announce the makeup of its government until the United States completes its troop withdrawal, two sources in the movement told AFP on Monday.
“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,” a Taliban source said, and this was confirmed by a second insider.
The Taliban also warned that there would be “consequences” if the United States and its allies extend the presence of troops in Afghanistan beyond next week, as chaos continued to overwhelm Kabul airport.
The rapid fall of the country to the hardliners last weekend shocked Western nations, coming just two weeks before an August 31 deadline for all troops to fully withdraw from the country.
To manage the chaotic airlifting of foreigners and Afghans, many of whom fear reprisals for working with Western nations, thousands of soldiers have poured back into Afghanistan, with pressure growing on Washington to extend the deadline.
But the Taliban, who have so far sought to strike a more moderate tone, showed no willingness to compromise on the US pullout.
“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told Sky News on Monday.
Staying beyond the agreed deadline would be “extending occupation”, he added.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden said Sunday he was still planning to finalise the dramatic evacuation from Afghanistan by August 31, but left the door open to extending the deadline if necessary.
In a televised address from the White House on the chaotic exit, Biden said his “hope is we will not have to extend.”
The Pentagon has said that it is formally seeking airlift help from commercial airlines to relocate evacuees from Afghanistan once they have gotten out of their country.