Taliban warn of ‘reaction’ if US doesn’t withdraw by May deadline

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The Taliban warned the United States on Friday that there will be a “reaction” from the insurgent group should Washington not follow through on a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan.

The warning, which the Taliban issued at a press conference in Moscow, came a day after their negotiators met for Russian-led peace talks with senior Afghan government officials, The Associated Press reported

“They should go,” Taliban negotiation team member Suhail Shaheen told reporters, adding that if U.S. troops stay past May 1, “it will be a kind of violation of the agreement. That violation would not be from our side. … Their violation will have a reaction.”

“We hope that this will not happen, that they withdraw and we focus on the settlement, peaceful settlement of the Afghan issue,” Shaheen said. 

The U.S. has been at war in Afghanistan since the 9/11 terrorist attacks launched by al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden while he was based in the country. The subsequent American invasion overthrew the Taliban in Kabul, and U.S. forces have remained there ever since, making the conflict the United States’s longest-running war.

Washington officially has about 2,500 troops remaining in the country, a number former President Trump drew down to in his final weeks in office.

Under an agreement with the Taliban the Trump administration hastily made last year, all U.S. troops are to leave by May 1 should the Taliban uphold certain commitments such as reentering peace talks with the Afghan government and committing to ensure that the country is not used by terrorist groups to plan or carry out attacks on the U.S. or its allies.

U.S. officials, however, have repeatedly said the Taliban have yet to uphold their end of the bargain.

While the Taliban have not launched attacks on U.S. or NATO forces, violence in the country is up, with the number of unclaimed bombings and targeted killings jumping in the past several months.

President Biden this week said that meeting the deadline would be “tough,” and that he is still deciding whether to go through with the withdrawal.

“The fact is that that was not a very solidly negotiated deal that the president, the former president worked out,” Biden said in the interview. “And so we’re in consultation with our allies, as well as the government.”

NBC News first reported Thursday that Biden is considering keeping U.S. troops in Afghanistan until November, a six-month extension.

In Moscow, Shaheen told reporters the Taliban are demanding the return to an Islamic government in Afghanistan, which previously denied girls and women education, banned women from working and employed strict rules and harsh punishments.

He stressed that the current Afghan government does not fit their definition of an Islamic government.

Tags Afghan peace process afghan war Afghanistan conflict al Qaeda Donald Trump Joe Biden Taliban War in Afghanistan

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