- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 14, 2021

The Taliban on Wednesday issued a stark warning to President Biden, vowing that U.S. troops still in Afghanistan past May 1 will be “held liable” and will face a fresh wave of attacks.

The Taliban‘s latest threat came just hours before Mr. Biden will formally announce the withdrawal of all American forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11. The president will lay out the exit plan during a Wednesday afternoon speech at the White House.

But the new withdrawal date ignores a May 1 deadline put in place by former President Trump, who last year struck a historic peace deal with the Taliban, informally known as the “Doha agreement.” Taliban officials say they expect Mr. Biden to abide by those terms. If not, they warned that the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan will become targets.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seeks the withdrawal of all foreign forces from our homeland on the date specified in the Doha Agreement. If the agreement is adhered to, a pathway to addressing the remaining issues will also be found,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid wrote on Twitter Wednesday. “If the agreement is breached and foreign forces fail to exit our country on the specified date, problems will certainly be compounded and those whom failed to comply with the agreement will be held liable.”

The Doha agreement called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban, including a promise that the insurgent group would permanently sever all ties to al Qaeda. Few observers believe the Taliban has lived up to its end of the bargain.

In previewing Mr. Biden‘s speech, White House officials on Tuesday warned the Taliban that any attacks on U.S. forces will lead to retaliation. The dueling threats seem to be setting the stage for a final U.S.-Taliban battle even as American forces head for the exits.

Mr. Biden, meanwhile, will tell the American people Wednesday that the U.S. has done all it can in Afghanistan.

“We cannot continue the cycle of extending or expanding our military presence in Afghanistan hoping to create the ideal conditions for our withdrawal, expecting a different result,” the president will say, according to excerpts distributed by the White House ahead of the address. “I am now the fourth American president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan. Two Republicans. Two Democrats. I will not pass this responsibility to a fifth.”

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