The Taliban warned on Friday that the group would start targeting foreign troops in Afghanistan if they remain in the country beyond the May 1st deadline set by the US-Taliban peace deal. The warning comes a day after President Biden said it would be “hard” to pull troops out by May 1st, signaling that he plans to stay.
The Taliban said in a statement that if foreign troops do not leave by the deadline, the group “will be compelled to defend its religion and homeland and continue its Jihad and armed struggle against foreign forces to liberate its country.”
Proponents of prolonging the almost 20-year-old war claim the Taliban has not lived up to its end of the agreement it signed with the Trump administration. But one aspect of the deal the Taliban has lived up to is its pledge not to attack US and other coalition forces. Since the deal was signed last February, no US troops have died in combat in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) said the Biden administration is looking to cut a deal with the Taliban to extend the deadline. But it’s unlikely that the Taliban would agree to an extension.
While Biden said it would be “hard” to leave by May 1st, he did say that he wants to pull out troops soon and that he “can’t picture” that US soldiers will be in Afghanistan next year. But if Biden stays past May 1st against the will of the Taliban, it would mean an escalation of the war.
The Pentagon says it has 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, although recent reports said the number is closer to 3,500. Still, if the Taliban launches a major offensive, the Pentagon would likely request more troops.
As the deadline is approaching, there are many forces at work trying to get Biden to stay. A report from The New York Times published on Friday said US intelligence agencies told Biden that if he leaves Afghanistan without negotiating a power-sharing deal between the Taliban and the US-backed government, that the country would fall largely under the control of the Taliban within two to three years.
But according to recent numbers, the Taliban already controls most of the country. The Taliban controls 52 percent of the territory in Afghanistan, and 48 percent is under government-control. The numbers show what a failure the US’s war has been and that Washington has nothing to show for the trillions it has sunk into the effort.