No extensions for US evacuations in Afghanistan, warn Taliban

Published August 24, 2021
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid says life is returning to normal in the country but chaos at the Kabul airport remains a problem.  — AP/File
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid says life is returning to normal in the country but chaos at the Kabul airport remains a problem. — AP/File

A Taliban spokesperson says the US must complete its evacuation of people from Afghanistan by the August 31 date the Biden administration set for the withdrawal of all American troops.

Addressing a press conference, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said his group would accept no extensions to the deadline. He said life was returning to normal in the country but chaos at the airport remained a problem.

Many Afghans are desperate to flee the Taliban takeover of the country.

The spokesperson said the United States should stop evacuating skilled Afghans, and warned Western forces against extending the Aug 31 deadline for airlifts out of the country.

The group said Americans were taking “Afghan experts” such as engineers out of the country.

“They have planes, they have the airport, they should get their citizens and contractors out of here,” said Mujahid.

The Taliban leader also said female Afghan government workers should stay home until security conditions in the country improved.

US-led troops have ramped up operations to get thousands of people out of Kabul, after the Taliban warned they would not allow the US to extend the deadline for a complete withdrawal.

President Biden has said he would stick to the schedule, but faced growing pressure to negotiate more time for the evacuations.

Germany said on Tuesday that Western allies simply could not fly every Afghan who needed protection out of Kabul before the cut-off date.

“Even if [the evacuation] goes on until August 31 or even a few days longer, it will not be enough to allow those who we, or the United States, want to fly out,” Foreign Minister Heiko Maas told Bild TV.

Earlier, France said it would have to end evacuations from Kabul's airport on Thursday if the US stuck to the deadline, and Spain said it would not be able to rescue all Afghans who served Spanish missions.

Britain, meanwhile, has said it will lobby for an extension at a virtual G7 summit later on Tuesday.

'Not aware' of Taliban-CIA meeting

Mujahid during the news conference said he was not aware of any meeting between the Taliban and the CIA, but he did not deny that such a meeting took place.

Earlier in the day, the Washington Post reported that CIA chief William Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Monday.

The meeting, which if confirmed will have been the highest-level encounter between the Taliban and the Biden administration since the group's return to power, came as efforts to evacuate thousands of people from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan became increasingly urgent.

Burns is one of US President Joe Biden's most experienced diplomats, while Baradar, who headed the Taliban's political office in Qatar, is one of the top leaders in the regime that has taken power in Kabul.

A spokesperson for the CIA would not confirm the meeting to AFP, saying that the agency “never discusses the director's travels”.

The Washington Post, which cited anonymous US sources for the meeting, did not describe the content of the discussions between the Taliban co-founder and the CIA boss.

'Investigation before punishment'

Meanwhile, in an interview with Geo News, Mujahid said peace was only possible with punishments handed down to people in line with Sharia law.

But he claimed that "this time, a robust investigation will be carried out prior to awarding any punishments."

The spokesperson further said Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhunzada was alive and remained the emir of the group, adding that he would be an "integral part" of the new government system in Afghanistan.

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