Amid reports that the US plans to leave a sizable force in Afghanistan, the Taliban is warning that any foreign troops who don’t leave the country by the September 11th withdrawal deadline set by President Biden will be viewed as occupiers and will be at risk of being attacked.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen made the warning in comments to BBC. “If they leave behind their forces against the Doha agreement then in that case it will be the decision of our leadership how we proceed,” he said. “We would react and the final decision is with our leadership.”
Reports say the US wants to leave somewhere between 650 and 1,000 troops to guard the US embassy in Kabul and help Turkey occupy the Kabul airport. The US portrays this plan as necessary to provide security for its diplomatic staff. But Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin approved a new embassy-based military command structure, and the Pentagon has made it clear the US presence after September 11th would go far beyond embassy security.
Shaheen said the Taliban would not attack any diplomatic staff or NGOs and that leaving troops for embassy security was unnecessary. “We are against the foreign military forces, not diplomats, NGOs and workers and NGOs functioning and embassies functioning — that is something our people need. We will not pose any threat to them,” he said.
Since the US-Taliban peace deal was signed in Doha in February 2020, no US troops have died in combat in Afghanistan. The Pentagon’s post-withdrawal plans would do little but put US troops at risk and fuel more violence between the Taliban and the US-backed government.