CIA Director William J. Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul on Monday with the Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, as the United States looks for an extension of Biden’s own deadline of August 31 to remove all Americans from Afghanistan.
The Taliban said yesterday that they see the August 31 date as a “red line” and will refuse to grant the U.S. additional time to leave.
A Taliban spokesman told Sky News that the group will not accept such an extension.
“It’s a red line. President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that,” Suhail Shaheen said, according to the report.
“If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations, the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” he added.
The Taliban spokesman added that it would “provoke a reaction” if Biden extended the withdrawal deadline.
Exactly what that veiled threat means is unclear but the Taliban could cause a lot of problems for the U.S. in trying to get its people out of Afghanistan. Currently, the airport from which the evacuations are taking place is extremely vulnerable to external attacks. The Taliban is providing security, but what if they were to pull their protection? This would be the least disruptive move they could make if they don’t agree to an extension of the August 31 deadline.
The Biden administration is under pressure from some allies to keep U.S. forces in the country beyond the end of the month to assist the evacuation of tens of thousands of citizens of the United States and Western countries as well as Afghan allies desperate to escape Taliban rule.
Britain, France and other U.S. allies have said more time is needed to evacuate their personnel, but a Taliban spokesman warned that the United States would be crossing a “red line” if it kept troops beyond the 31st, which he said would trigger unspecified “consequences.”
The Taliban is scoring propaganda victory after propaganda victory. The U.S. appears as a supplicant coming before the mighty Taliban begging for consideration for their helpless ones.
It will be impossible to evacuate all the Americans from Kabul who want to leave because the administration has no idea how many Americans there are living in the city or where many of them are. They also can’t possibly evacuate all the at-risk Afghans who assisted American forces during the occupation and who would be executed if the Taliban got their hands on them.
It’s going to take weeks — perhaps months — to finish the job of safely evacuating those who are in danger. And the way the Taliban is talking, they have no intention of giving the United States that much of a grace period to get the job done.
Defense Department spokesman John Kirby says it’s still possible the evacuation could be completed by the end of the month.
“We are well aware of the stated desire by the Taliban to have this mission completed by the 31st of August, I will tell you that we are still planning on completing it by the 31st of August. That is the mission that has been signed by the commander in chief and assigned to us and that’s what we’re trying to execute,” Kirby added.
Earlier on Monday, the U.S. military confirmed a brief firefight broke out at one gate into Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.
According to the White House, 48,000 people have been evacuated from the Kabul airport since August 14. Even with the rescue effort ramping up by the military commandeering civilian aircraft to facilitate the evacuation, it would take at least a couple of weeks to get just the Americans out, not counting our Afghan allies and their families.
The situation will come to a head sometime early next week.