Breaking: Taliban vow to step up attacks as Biden says US may miss Afghanistan pullout deadline
The Taliban have threatened to resume attacks against US-led foreign troops in Afghanistan following remarks by President Joe Biden that he may extend the US military presence beyond the May 1 deadline.
The Taliban said in a statement that if Washington fails to meet the deadline – set in a peace deal negotiated by former president Donald Trump – the group will be “compelled” to continue “armed struggle against foreign forces to liberate its country.”
The threat by the armed group – which continues to control most of Afghanistan despite the massive presence of US-led forces – came after Biden said on Thursday that it would be hard to withdraw the remaining American troops by May 1.
“It’s not my intention to stay there for a long time,” Biden claimed. “We will leave. The question is when we leave.”
When asked whether US forces will still remain in Afghanistan next year, Biden vaguely asserted, “I can’t picture that being the case.”
Biden further pointed to ongoing discussions on Afghanistan, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s meetings with NATO allies that have troops in the war-torn country.
“And if we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way,” he said.
The Taliban’s statement underlined that the group was committed to the agreement, which it described as the “most sensible and shortest path” to end the conflict.
Responsibility for its prolongation “will be on the shoulders of those who committed this violation,” it added.
“If anyone violates the Doha agreement and adopts the path of war, Afghans have a long history of giving sacrifices for the freedom of their country and can drive out by force the foreign troops,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid was quoted as saying.
“No one should try the will of Afghans in this regard . . . and all foreign troops must leave Afghanistan on the set time as Afghans have the right to decide about their country. Whoever wants to extend the 20 years of war will suffer more financial and human losses,” he added.
Under the February 2020 “peace” deal between the Taliban and the Trump administration, Washington vowed to withdraw all 2,500 US troops remaining in Afghanistan. In return, the Taliban pledged to stop attacks on US troops.
However, attacks continue to plague the South Asian nation, including a recent upsurge in killings of journalists, aid workers and government employees.
Biden’s remarks came ahead of a US-sponsored conference on the Afghan “peace process” in Turkey, where negotiators are expected to discuss the formation of an interim administration in Afghanistan in the coming weeks that would involve Taliban representatives — an idea opposed by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
Ghani, whose government was sidelined from the US-Taliban talks in Doha last year, has been demanding that foreign troops remain in Afghanistan for a few more years and that the Biden administration review Trump’s deal with the Taliban.