Taliban Says Aug. 31 is “Red Line” for Troop Withdrawal After Biden Floats Extension

The Taliban said there would be “consequences” if US troops stay in the country past August 31 after President Joe Biden said the mission may be extended to evacuate thousands of Americans and allies, Axios reports.

Biden on Sunday said there have been discussions about keeping troops in the country past his August 31 deadline to handle evacuations.

"There are discussions going on among us and the military about extending," Biden said. "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."

The US has already evacuated more than 30,000 people and have called in commercial airlines to help relocate evacuees.

Biden said the US has also “increased rational access to the airport where more folks can get there more safely.”

"Let me be clear: The evacuation of thousands of people from Kabul is going to be hard and painful, no matter when it started or when we began," he said. "Would have been true if we had started a month ago or a month from now. There is no way to evacuate this many people without pain and loss and the heartbreaking images you see on television. It’s just a fact. My heart aches for those people you see. We are proving that we can move, though, thousands of people a day out of Kabul."

Taliban draws “red line”:

Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told reporters that the August 31 deadline is 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,” he said.

"If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences. It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction," he added.

UK pushes US to extend deadline:

Biden is set to meet with global leaders at Tuesday’s G7 summit, where UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to ask the president to extend the self-imposed deadline.

Armed forces minister James Heappey told reporters that the “hard reality” is that the evacuations can only continue past August 31 if the US extends its timeline.

“Whether or not the US can be persuaded to stay is a matter for the prime minister tomorrow in the G7 meeting,” he said.

But Heappey said the Taliban, which has agreed to allow US troops to use the Kabul airport to evacuate people, will also have a say.

“Even though they are the seven most powerful people on the planet, they don’t get to take that decision in isolation. The Taliban get a vote as well and that’s why we’re continuing to work towards the 31st,” he said.


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