The Taliban won’t accept President Joe Biden’s potential extension for withdrawing in Afghanistan, a spokesperson told Sky News.
The U.S. appeared caught off guard by the swift Taliban takeover, sending in more troops to control the Kabul airport and aid in evacuation efforts earlier in August. With the withdrawal deadline of Aug. 31 inching closer, Biden is considering extending that date if more people still need to be evacuated – but Taliban spokesperson Dr. Suhail Shaheen said “it’s a red line.”
“This is something, you can say it’s a red line,” Shaheen said in a video interview with Sky News. “President Biden announced that on 31 of 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.”
“If the US or UK 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.
A Taliban leadership official also said foreign forces haven’t requested any extension and echoed the spokesperson’s assertion that it would not be approved, according to Reuters.
The U.S. has ramped up its evacuation numbers after a slow start, but many more still need evacuating. The White House’s latest update noted that 28 U.S. military flights evacuated around 10,400 people from Kabul between August 22 at 3:00 am to August 23 at 3:00 am. During that time, 61 coalition aircraft also evacuated approximately 5,900 people.
This brings the total number of people evacuated by the U.S. to around 37,000 since August 14. Around 42,000 people have been evacuated since the end of July, according to a White House official.
It’s unclear how many of those evacuated are Americans. The administration has struggled to determine exactly how many Americans are in Afghanistan, and there have been reports of the Taliban beating U.S. citizens trying to get to the airport. (RELATED: Impossible To Fact Check ‘In Real Time’: Misleading Biden Presser Diverges From Reality On The Ground)
The reports undercut Biden’s assertion on Friday, where he claimed the administration has “no indication that they [Americans] haven’t been able to” get to the airport ,and touted the agreement with the Taliban on offering safe passage to citizens.