Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said his group would accept no extensions to the deadline of August 31. He warned Tuesday that Afghans should not try to flee the country and that they will bar Afghans from accessing Kabul’s airport and won’t allow them to be evacuated.
Mujahid also said in this press conference that “the U.S. must stick to its deadline to withdraw troops.” The Taliban will allow foreigners to pass through checkpoints, but Afghans will be barred from roads that lead to the airport. Mujahid said the foreigners would be allowed to prevent large crowds from amassing at the airport. It was not immediately clear if the Taliban would stop Afghans being escorted by foreigners or those in the process of being evacuated by Western countries.
Withdrawing the nearly 6,000 troops from Hamid Karzai International Airport will take time and likely curtail or halt civilian evacuation flights before the August 31 deadline. We know it took several days to fly in the troops and their equipment, and it will take some time to get them out safely.
President Joe Biden told world allies Tuesday the U.S. is on pace to complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan by its August 31 deadline, but is prepared to stay longer if the Taliban doesn’t cooperate on evacuations, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
The announcements set the stage for a chaotic endgame a day after the CIA director William Burns met with the Taliban’s acting leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul. The extraordinary meeting reflected the gravity of crisis and America’s need to coordinate with the Taliban as it struggles to end a two-decade war against them. This meeting was the highest-level meeting a Biden administration official and the Taliban since the fundamentalist group took full control on August 15.
The withdrawal must be done in a sequenced and precise way, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Tuesday. Security will be paramount.
President Joe Biden has been in meetings Tuesday with leaders of the G7 nations to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan. Biden is expected to speak to Americans after this meeting, from the White House.
This in an ongoing event and will be updated as information is received.