BEIRUT (5:10 P.M.) – The Taliban has rejected proposals from the U.S. and its Western allies to extend evacuations from Kabul international airport past August 31.
The deadline was previously set by U.S. President Joe Biden as the last day American troops would be present inside Afghanistan.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid warned that the Taliban “have not agreed to an extension of a August 31 deadline for evacuations from Afghanistan” at a Tuesday press conference. This comes a day after a separate Taliban official told Sky News it would be a “red line” – suggesting that militants would attack the airport.
“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,” Suhail Shaheen said in the Monday statements.
“If the U.S. or U.K. 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,” he added.
There are an estimated 6,000 U.S. troops at Hamid Karzai International airport overseeing the continued evacuation of tens of thousands desperately seeking departure from the country under Taliban rule. Monday alone saw some 16,000 people flown out over a 24 hour period as the tempo of flights have ramped up.
According to Reuters correspondent Idress Ali, “U.S. officials say the military will have to begin its withdrawal from Afghanistan by Friday to meet the August 31 deadline.”
For this to be pulled off logistically, it’s likely the White House would have to make the decision within the next 24 to 48 hours. But complicating the situation further, U.S. allies like Britain, Germany, and France are urging the U.S. to stay past the Aug.31 deadline, arguing that they need more time to get their nationals as well as local Afghan allies like interpreters out.