The Taliban said any foreign troops remaining in Afghanistan after the withdrawal deadline risk being considered occupiers, according to the BBC.
The U.S. and NATO allies are withdrawing from the region after the Taliban agreed to stop cooperating with or hosting terrorist groups. President Joe Biden declared a Sept. 11 deadline for the drawdown, but some 650 troops will remain in Afghanistan to secure the American embassy and the Kabul airport.
“If they leave behind their forces against the Doha agreement then in that case it will be the decision of our leadership how we proceed,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the BBC, adding that the expectation is for no military forces to remain following the withdrawal deadline.
“We would react and the final decision is with our leadership,” Shaheen added.
The Taliban spokesman claimed that diplomats, foreign civilians and non-governmental organizations won’t be a Taliban target. Because of this, he argued, continued protection for these groups won’t be necessary.
“We are against the foreign military forces, not diplomats, NGOs and workers and NGOs functioning and embassies functioning – that is something our people need,” Shaheen told the BBC. “We will not pose any threat to them.”
The Taliban has worked to take over bases, check posts and districts across Afghanistan amid the U.S. troop withdrawal. This has raised concerns within the U.S. intelligence community that the Afghan government may quickly fall into the hands of the Taliban after the withdrawal is completed. (RELATED: Afghan Forces Begin To Collapse, Surrender To Taliban Amid US Withdrawal)
Although the withdrawal from Afghanistan is moving quickly, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said it won’t be complete until the end of August. U.S. troops left Bagram Air Base on Friday, representing a significant part of the drawdown process.