The Taliban warned the US on Friday that there would be a “reaction” if President Biden failed to withdraw from Afghanistan by the May 1st deadline set by the US-Taliban peace deal signed in Doha last year. The comments were made from Moscow, where the warring sides met to discuss the peace process.
“They should go,” said Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban’s negotiation team. He warned if the US stayed beyond May 1st, it would be a violation of the Doha agreement. “After that, it will be a kind of violation of the agreement. That violation would not be from our side. . . Their violation will have a reaction,” Shaheen said.
Shaheen also called for “expedited” peace negotiations. “It is important that the negotiations should be expedited because it will help us to achieve a permanent ceasefire and countrywide peace and this is our goal,” He said. “As we talked with Afghan politicians, they also insisted that the process should be expedited.”
Shaheen’s comments come after a report from NBC News said President Biden is considering staying in Afghanistan in November. Sources told NBC that Biden was pushing back against the Pentagon’s efforts to stay in Afghanistan but was convinced to consider extending the withdrawal deadline to November, although no decisions have yet been made.
Any deadline extension would have to be agreed with the Taliban, or the group would again target US troops, something Shaheen’s warning makes clear. February 8th marked the first full year that no US troops died in combat in Afghanistan since the war began.
While the Taliban held up its commitment not to attack the US troops, US airstrikes still occasionally target the group. A US military spokesman announced on Wednesday that the US bombed Taliban targets this week.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for the Afghan peace process, attended Afghanistan talks in Moscow on Thursday. Russia has been hosting Afghanistan summits for years now, but the US is usually not involved. The US, Russia, China, and Pakistan released a joint statement calling for a political settlement.