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Taliban Vow Retaliation if All Foreign Troops Don’t Exit Afghanistan

by Newsweek Pakistan

File photo of Suhail Shaheen, center, spokesman for the Taliban in Qatar. Karim Jaafar—AFP

Speaking to the BBC, Taliban spokesman warns of ‘strong response’ if Doha agreement between them and the U.S. is violated

The Afghan Taliban have warned that they will retaliate against any foreign troops that remain in Afghanistan beyond the Sept. 11 deadline, claiming that this will violate the Doha agreement inked between the insurgents and the U.S.

In an interview with the BBC, Suhail Shaheen, the spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, said that all foreign troops were required to exit Afghanistan by the deadline provided under the agreement signed between the insurgents and Washington.

The Doha agreement, announced in February, had called for a complete withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan within 14 months. In exchange, the Taliban had vowed not to permit Al Qaeda or the Islamic State militant group to gain footholds in the country. Newly elected President Joe Biden, however, announced that the withdrawal would be completed by September 11—the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks that resulted in the invasion of Afghanistan—and has already withdrawn the bulk of troops from the war-torn state, including completely vacating the Bagram airbase that had been the largest U.S. military base in the country.

In his conversation with the BBC, Shaheen stressed that all foreign forces, including military contractors, must leave Afghanistan by the deadline or risk backlash—though he stopped short of announcing what this would entail. “We are against 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 added.

Shaheen’s statement comes amid reports that 1,000 mainly U.S. troops could remain deployed in Afghanistan to protect diplomatic missions and Kabul’s international airport. Fears are mounting globally over an impending conflict in Afghanistan, as the Taliban continue to sweep through the country, seizing control from Kabul—and have completely halted intra-Afghan talks that were meant to produce a viable power-sharing formula between the elected government and the insurgents.

Pakistan P.M. Imran Khan has also warned that the U.S. decision to announce a complete withdrawal ahead of its earlier timeline had sent the message that the Taliban had won. In a parliamentary address, he said Pakistan had no more leverage over the insurgents, and urged Washington to help ensure peace before it left the region, or risk a renewed civil war in Afghanistan that had the potential to endanger the entire region. He also stressed that Pakistan would not, under any circumstance, allow the U.S. to retain any military base in Pakistan to stage counter-terror operations in Afghanistan.

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