Taliban’s new warning in TV interview

The Taliban says it has drawn a “red line” with the United States and its allies and warns there will be “consequences” if the last troops are not out of Afghanistan by next week.

It comes in another interview from the group who told Sky News’ Sally Lockwood in Doha that reports of Taliban violence is “all fake news”.

The publication said it met with the group to discuss the future of Afghanistan but instead, Taliban spokesperson Dr Suhail Shaheen sent a “stark warning”.

The evacuation deadline for the US’ military presence in the country had been set for the end of August but President Joe Biden has since said the withdrawal of troops by August 31 may be extended.

The US evacuated approximately 16,000 people in the last 24 hours, a jump from 11,000 people in 30 hours over the weekend. That included 18 aircraft from 6 commercial airlines.

The United States has evacuated approximately 37,000 people from Afghanistan since August 14 but the number of Americans still stranded in the country remains unknown.

In a Pentagon presser overnight spokesman John Kirby: “I’m going to leave it at several thousand”.

Kirby admitted the number was vague but only because the number was “fluid”.

Five flights carrying evacuees have already landed in Washington DC but Mr Biden revealed discussions “among us and the military about extending”.

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The Taliban has said it will react if the military deadline is not respected, despite the date looming and problematic evacuations stalling the process.

“It’s a red line,” Taliban spokesman Dr Shaheen said.

He said no extension will be allowed and that “if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.”

“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences.

“It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.

“They occupied our country. If we occupy your country. What you will say to me? What if I killed your people in your country what you will say?

“I think all people suffered a lot. Bloodshed. Destruction. Everything. But we say the past is the past. Part of our past history. Now we want to focus on the future.”

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia was “part of the discussions” over the prospect of the United States extending its withdrawal deadline.

“If they are to be extended, we are absolutely ready to support a continuing operation at Hamid Karzai International Airport,” she said.

Meanwhile Britain’s Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, is reportedly set to “personally plead with Joe Biden” at an emergency G7 meeting to extend the deadline, citing the need to allow more people to flee.

Biden is facing increasing pressure despite the threats to extend with the European Union and the UK saying it would be impossible to get everyone out by then.

But with the Taliban digging in, BBC political presenter Andrew Neil said “the nightmare in Kabul is only just beginning”.

People clinging to planes ‘weren’t scared’

Referring to the images of desperate Afghans clinging onto planes, Dr Shaheen said: “I assure you it is not about being worried or scared.

“They want to reside in Western countries and that is a kind of economic migration because Afghanistan is a poor country and 70 per cent of the people of Afghanistan live under the line of poverty so everyone wants to resettle in Western countries to have a prosperous life.

“It is not about [being] scared.”

Dr Shaheen described recent reports of Taliban threats and violence as “fake news” and said “I can assure you there are many reports by our opponents claiming what is not based on realities.”

Last week, the Taliban’s “behind-the-scenes voice” appeared for the first time before the world’s press, holding the militant group’s first press conference since its takeover of Afghanistan.

The group held its first press conference in Kabul, with notorious Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed claiming “security and peace” is its top priority and urging local businesses to carry on to ensure a “smooth transfer of power”.

Women have ‘lost nothing’

In the latest interview, the Taliban continued to defend their position, that despite fears that the group’s hard line Islamic rule will include oppression of women, they will be able to access higher education under its policies.

“They will lose nothing. Only if they have no hijab, they will have a hijab … women are required to have the same rights as you have in your country but with a hijab.”

“Now, women teachers have resumed work. Lost nothing. Female journalists they have resumed their work. Lost nothing.”

The rush to leave Kabul has seen more harrowing scenes and killed at least eight people.

One Afghan was killed and three others were injured in a dawn firefight that according to the German military erupted between Afghan guards and unknown assailants.

German and American troops “participated in further exchange of fire”, the German army said in a statement.

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