Taliban spokesman Dr. Suhail Shaheen was interviewed by Sky News journalists in Qatar. He called the Aug. 31 deadline for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan a “red line,” and threatened “consequences” if U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan beyond that date.
Last week, President Joe Biden said U.S. troops may remain in Afghanistan longer than the original timetable for their withdrawal.*
This concerns the protracted operation to evacuate U.S. citizens and Afghan associates of the U.S. military and administration. Following the Taliban’s capture of Kabul, the Biden administration deployed several thousand additional troops to Afghanistan to ensure the security of the Afghan capital’s airport, from which evacuations are being conducted.
It is a red line. Biden announced that the U.S. will withdraw all its military forces by Aug. 31.* “If they want to extend (their presence in Afghanistan), it means they are extending the occupation at a time when there is no need,” the Taliban representative told Sky News.
“If the U.S. or the U.K. want additional time to conduct evacuations, the answer is no. Or there will be consequences,” Shaheen added. “This will create mistrust between us. If they want to continue the occupation, it will provoke a reaction,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, thousands of people seeking to get out of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan continue to gather outside Kabul airport. When asked about this exodus, Shaheen said that those wanting to get out of Afghanistan are doing so for economic reasons. “I can assure you that it is not about fear or anxiety,” he stressed.
“They want to become residents of western countries, it is an economic migration because Afghanistan is a poor country and 70% of the population lives below the poverty line,” he added.
When asked about women’s rights in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, Shaheen said that women “will not lose anything. They will have the same rights that you [the British] have in your country, but they will have to wear hijabs,” he explained. Teachers and journalists have already resumed their work in Afghanistan. “They have not lost anything,” he added.
*Editor’s note: All American military troops withdrew from Afghanistan on Aug. 30.