The Taliban has given President Joe Biden an ultimatum. A senior spokesman for the militant group that has taken over Afghanistan following the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. forces ordered by Biden told Sky News in the U.K. on Monday that both the U.S. and Britain will suffer consequences if they extend their military presence in Afghanistan beyond August 31.
That deadline was established by Biden earlier this summer when it was decided that he wanted to complete the U.S. withdrawal before the twentieth anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The deadline reflects a significant extension of the original exit date of May 1 established by President Donald Trump in 2020.
When Biden extended the time for withdrawal and unilaterally broke the agreement that Trump reached, the jihadist Taliban began a campaign to overthrow the U.S.-backed Afghan government and security forces. By August 15, the Taliban forced President Ashraf Ghani from the country and effectively took over the entire country.
In the interview with Sky News, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen denied that the crowds surrounding the Kabul airport feared for their safety. However, witnesses have reported extensive violence and stampeding around the gates entering the only airport secured by U.S. forces and airlifting evacuees
Shaheen referred to the August 31 withdrawal date as a “red line.” He said that Biden established the date, so there is no need for occupation beyond that date. He said that if the U.S. or U.K. asked for more time, the answer would be “no,” and there would “be consequences.” He added that “if either nation intends to continue the occupation, it will provoke a reaction.”
Fox News reported that Biden decided on Tuesday not to extend the August 31 deadline. His announcement came shortly after the “no extensions” statement by the Taliban.
Department of Defense Press Secretary John Kirby also said Tuesday that the administration aims toward the end of the month for complete withdrawal. He noted that the flow of evacuating Americans and Afghans holding or seeking emergency visas was sufficient to support his belief.