The Taliban is warning that a US plan to leave 650 troops in Afghanistan would be a violation of the US-Taliban agreement that was signed in Doha last year. US officials told The Associated Press that the 650 troops would stay after the rest withdraw to guard the US embassy in Kabul and help Turkish troops secure the Kabul airport.
“We have signed the Doha agreement and that was negotiated with the American side for 18 months. They have agreed and committed themselves that they will withdraw from Afghanistan all their military forces, advisers, and contractors,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Al Jazeera. “I think it is a clear violation of that agreement.”
Shaheen said the Taliban would have the “right to react” if US troops remained beyond the September 11th withdrawal deadline set by President Biden. Since the Doha agreement was signed, the Taliban has not attacked US or other foreign troops, even after Biden unilaterally pushed back the original May 1st withdrawal deadline.
“If they stay here, then I think it is a kind of continuation of the occupation. They have violated and we fully have the right to react,” Shaheen said. “We have not attacked them during their withdrawal. Even [when] they violated the May 1st full withdrawal from Afghanistan — still, we have not attacked them while we are fully capable to do that.”
Besides putting US troops at risk, the plan to keep a military presence would fuel more fighting between the Taliban and the US-backed Afghan government. The Taliban is currently making significant gains in its offensive, and a continued US presence would give the group little incentive to negotiate.