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Taliban Refuse to Accept Extension to Withdrawal Deadline

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid

In press conference, spokesman urges Afghans to stop trying to leave the country, claiming their ‘expertise’ is needed to rebuild country

The Taliban on Tuesday announced they will not grant any extension to the Aug. 31 deadline for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops, and urged the U.S. to stop trying to encourage Afghans to flee their homeland.

Addressing a press conference in Kabul, which the Taliban took control of on Aug. 15 after former president Ashraf Ghani tendered his resignation and fled the country, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed that any delay in the complete withdrawal of foreign troops would violate the agreement signed between the Taliban and the U.S. in Doha. He stressed that the group would not permit any extension to it, and sought to reassure foreign states whose diplomatic staff has been part of a mass exodus from the country.

“We have assured them of security,” he said of foreign embassies and urged international organizations to continue their work, claiming the Taliban wanted to resolve all pending issues through dialogue.

Despite multiple claims by the Taliban that they have granted ‘amnesty’ to opponents and critics, credible reports persist of the group’s fighters seeking out and torturing—or outright killing—journalists, critics, and former employees of the Western-backed government.

During his press conference, the spokesman also sought to assure the thousands of Afghans crowded into Kabul airport in the hope of boarding flights that they had nothing to fear and should go home. “We guarantee their security,” he said, and urged the United States not to encourage Afghan people to leave their homeland.

“We are not in favor [of this],” he said, explaining why the Taliban had encircled the airport and were turning back people trying to leave. The same day, Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said Islamabad was accepting all evacuation requests from Afghanistan—apart from those of Afghan nationals, as “the authorities in Afghanistan have banned the exit of their nationals.”

Stressing that the Taliban’s focus was on clearing up and improving security, Mujahid said the people trying to flee Kabul should return home and help rebuild their country. “We need their expertise,” he said, adding that once security was re-established, women would be able to return to work.

He also denied reports that Taliban patrols were conducting house to house searches to find targets for reprisals, saying: “We have forgotten everything in the past.”

To a question, the spokesman said he could not confirm whether Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar had met CIA chief William Burns. He also reiterated that the group wanted to resolve through dialogue the situation in Panjshir, where forces loyal to former anti-Soviet commander Ahmad Shah Massoud’s son, Ahmad Massoud, have gathered and vowed to resist the Taliban’s advance.

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