Taliban leaders warned Monday that U.S. and British troops will face “consequences” if they continue evacuations at Kabul‘s international airport past President Biden‘s self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw from Afghanistan.
The threat from Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen puts even more pressure on the Biden administration and its allies to complete its withdrawal of diplomatic personnel, military service members and Afghan allies before the end of the month.
The president said Sunday that the White House is considering extending that Aug. 31 deadline. He again expressed an “unwavering commitment” to get all Americans and Afghan allies out of Afghanistan safely, even if that requires staying longer than anticipated.
But the Taliban flatly rejected any extension and strongly suggested that insurgent fighters would target American forces after Aug. 31.
“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,” Mr. Shaheen, the Taliban spokesperson, said in an interview with Sky News published early Monday morning. “If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no. Or there would be consequences.”
At the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, a frantic pace of evacuations continues. Since Aug. 14, more than 37,000 people have been flown out of the city, which is now under Taliban control after the rapid collapse of the Afghan military and the dissolution of the U.S.-backed Afghan government.
Just over the last 24 hours, White House officials said, U.S. military aircraft flew another 10,400 out of Kabul, while another 5,900 escaped the city aboard coalition aircraft.
The president said that the White House will keep up the pace of those evacuations and will get all Americans and allies out of the country, no matter how long it takes.
“There’s discussions going on among us and the military about extending. 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,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at the White House on Sunday.
The president initially set a Sept. 11 deadline to pull all U.S. military forces from Afghanistan. He later moved up that cut-off date to Aug. 31.