A spokesman for the Taliban warned that U.S. troops in Afghanistan have to leave by Sept. 11—the anniversary of the terrorist attacks that launched the United States into the war—after troops were re-deployed to the Kabul airport to oversee an evacuation.
Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban’s political office, told Sky News on Tuesday that “we are committed not to attack them,” but he stressed they have to leave by that date. It’s not clear what will happen if American forces remain in Afghanistan after Sept. 11.
The United States had previously planned to withdraw all its troops by the end of August, but the Pentagon was forced to send thousands of soldiers to the beleaguered country to facilitate evacuations from Kabul, which was quickly captured by the Taliban—considered a terrorist group by many countries—on Sunday.
The Biden administration has faced widespread criticism for how his office handled the pullout and evacuation, with some likening it to previous military failures such as the 1975 fall of Saigon. Meanwhile, the sudden arrival of the Taliban sparked panic and triggered mass waves of people at the Kabul airport, as many hoped they could be airlifted out of Afghanistan.
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters on Tuesday that “the images of despair at Kabul airport shame the political West,” referring to the mass evacuations. “We are experiencing a human tragedy for which we share responsibility,” he also said.
During their 1996-2001 rule, also guided by their interpretation of Islamic law, or shariah, the Taliban stopped women from working and administered punishments including public stoning. Girls were not allowed to go to school and women had to wear all-enveloping burqas to go out.
Another spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the Taliban would not seek retribution against former soldiers and members of the Western-backed government, adding the movement was granting amnesty for former Afghan government soldiers as well as contractors and translators who worked for international forces.
President Joe Biden, in his only comments after the Taliban took over the country, said Monday that the Afghan government and army were to blame for the quick Taliban takeover. The president appeared not to take much responsibility for the government collapse and mass evacuations, although he said that the group took over the country “faster than we had anticipated.”
Also Monday, Biden promised a “swift and forceful” response if the Taliban attacks U.S. soldiers or disrupts evacuations at the airport. A spokesman for the Pentagon, John Kirby, said on Monday and Tuesday that American forces were forced to fire on armed assailants at the airport who fired at them first.