The Taliban warned on Monday that there would be “consequences” if the United States and its allies extended their presence in Afghanistan beyond next week, as chaos continued to overwhelm Kabul airport with dozens thousands of people still desperate to flee.
To oversee a chaotic airlift of foreigners and Afghans desperate to escape the return of hardline Islamic rule, thousands of troops have flocked to Afghanistan and pressure is mounting on Washington to extend the August 31 withdrawal deadline. .
But the Taliban on Monday showed no willingness to compromise, with spokesman Suhail Shaheen telling Sky News that staying past the agreed deadline would be “extending the occupation.”
“If the United States or the United Kingdom were to seek more time to continue with the evacuations – the answer is no… there would be consequences,” he said.
Two Taliban sources, meanwhile, told AFP that the group would not announce the composition of its government or cabinet until the last American soldier left the country.
The rush to leave Kabul sparked poignant scenes and killed at least eight people, some crushed to death and at least one after falling from a plane.
The German Defense Ministry said on Monday that an Afghan was killed and three others wounded in a dawn shootout between local guards and unknown assailants.
German and American troops “took part in a new exchange of fire,” he said in a statement.
The Taliban, infamous for their ultra-strict interpretation of Sharia law during their initial rule from 1996 to 2001, have repeatedly asserted that they are different this time around and declared an amnesty for government forces and officials.
But a United Nations intelligence document said militants were going door to door looking for former government officials and those working with US and NATO forces.
“Pain and loss”
US President Joe Biden has insisted he wants to end Washington’s military presence and airlifts by the end of the month. But with the European Union and Britain saying it would be impossible to get everyone out by then, Biden is under pressure to extend the deadline.
Germany said on Monday it was in talks with NATO allies and the Taliban to keep Kabul airport open for evacuations beyond August 31, while France expressed “concern” about the deadline, stating that “more time is needed to complete ongoing operations.”
Speaking at the White House on Sunday, Biden said negotiations were underway to explore the possibility of extending the deadline. He also acknowledged the tragic scenes at the airport, among which babies and children were passed to soldiers over wire fences and men hung outside of departing planes.
He said, however, that they were part of the starting fee.
“There is no way to evacuate so many people without pain, loss and heartbreaking images as you see,” he said.
The Pentagon announced Monday that around 16,000 people had been evacuated in the past 24 hours from Kabul airport, bringing the number relocated to 37,000 since the start of intense airlift operations on August 14.
“Peace and calm”
In the capital, the Taliban have brought some calm to a city long marred by violent crime, their armed forces patrolling the streets and occupying checkpoints.
Visually, they also sought to mark their authority, making sure to replace the national tricolor flag with their white banner.
At the side of a road in Kabul this weekend, young men sold Taliban flags, which bear in black text the proclamation of the Muslim faith and the regime’s official name: “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan”.
“Our goal is to fly the flag of the Islamic Emirate across Afghanistan,” said vendor Ahmad Shakib, who is studying economics at the university.
Outside Kabul, there have been glimmers of resistance against the Taliban. Some former government troops gathered in the Panjshir Valley north of the capital, long known as an anti-Taliban stronghold.
The Taliban said on Monday that their fighters had surrounded resistance forces entrenched in the valley, but were seeking to negotiate rather than fight against them. Fighters “are stationed near the Panjshir,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted, adding that the group was trying to resolve the issue peacefully.
The announcement follows scattered reports of overnight clashes, with pro-Taliban social media accounts claiming gunmen were massing, and former Afghan Vice President Amrullah Saleh claiming resistance forces were holding on. Well.
One of the leaders of the movement in Panjshir, called the National Resistance Front, is the son of the famous anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.
The NRF is ready for a “long-term conflict” but is also still seeking negotiations with the Taliban over an inclusive government, its spokesman Ali Maisam Nazary told AFP in an interview over the weekend.
With government offices still mostly closed, many Afghans fear being paid – but the Taliban on Monday announced the appointment of a central bank governor to turn the cogs of finance.
However, officials were told over the weekend that they would not be getting their pay until a new government was formed.
– TIME / AFP