A spokesman for the militant Taliban organization said on Monday that the group won’t allow countries to extend their withdrawal deadlines in order to have more time to get all of their citizens and allies out who wish to leave by the Aug. 31 deadline, potentially setting up a tense situation by month’s end.
“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,” Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told Sky News in the Qatari capital of Doha.
“If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Shaheen threatened. “It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.”
The hardline from Shaheen comes as some in the U.S. suggested over the weekend that Biden should consider appealing to the Taliban leadership for more time to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies.
However, Biden expressed confidence on Sunday that the U.S. military would be capable of evacuating everyone who wanted to leave the country by the deadline, though he said that talks regarding an extension were underway.
“There are discussions going on among us and the military about extending,” Biden said. “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.”
“We have constantly … increased rational access to the airport where more folks can get there more safely,” Biden added, though he did not talk specifics. “It’s still a dangerous operation, but I don’t want to go into the detail of how we’re doing that.”
Other Western countries are also considering deadline extensions including British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whom Sky News reports is considering asking Biden to extend as well.
On Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the Taliban are definitely in control of the capital of Kabul when he was talking about evacuation operations. He added that U.S. forces assisting in the process have to engage with Taliban militants to ensure that evacuations continue.
“What I’m focused on, what we’re all focused on, is getting people out and making sure that we’re doing everything possible to do that. And in this case, it is, I think, a requirement of the job to be in contact with the Taliban, which controls Kabul,” Blinken told CBS’ “Face the Nation” newsmagazine.
Also Sunday, Biden said that no matter what, it was always going to be difficult to get Americans out.
“Let me be clear: The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful, no matter when it started or when we began,” he said.
“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 the heartbreaking images you see on television. It’s just a fact,” he added.
“My heart aches for those people you see. We are proving that we can move, though, thousands of people a day out of Kabul.”
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