A Taliban spokesperson on Monday said the militant group will not accept requests to extend the evacuation deadline in Afghanistan as Western powers leave open the possibility of continuing operations past Aug. 31.
"It's a red line. President BidenJoe BidenManchin lays down demands for child tax credit: report Abrams targets Black churchgoers during campaign stops for McAuliffe in Virginia Pentagon, State Department square off on Afghanistan accountability MORE 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," Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen told Sky News in Qatar's capital of Doha.
"If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences," Shaheen added. "It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction."
On Sunday, President Biden said he was optimistic that all evacuation operations would be completed by Aug. 31, though he stated that discussions about potentially extending the deadline were being held.
"Our hope is we will not have to extend. But there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process," he said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is also expected to ask Biden to extend the deadline, according to Sky News.
Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenPentagon, State Department square off on Afghanistan accountability US should call out Nigeria's horrendous religious freedom record Biden struggles to rein in Saudi Arabia amid human rights concerns MORE on Sunday acknowledged that the Taliban are in control of Kabul when discussing evacuation operations, noting that the U.S. must engage with the insurgents to ensure evacuations.
"What I'm focused on, what we're all focused on, is getting people out and making sure that we're doing everything possible to do that. And in this case it is, I think, a requirement of the job to be in contact with the Taliban, which controls Kabul," he said while appearing on CBS's "Face the Nation."
The British news broadcaster also asked Shaheen about the scenes of Afghans desperately seeking to escape the country at the Kabul airport, with some clinging to the side of a U.S. military plane as it took off.
"I assure you it is not about being worried or scared," the Taliban spokesperson said.
"They want to reside in Western countries and that is a kind of economic migration because Afghanistan is a poor country and 70 percent 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," he claimed.
Shaheen also called reports of Taliban fighters going to door-to-door looking for former government workers and shutting down schools for girls "fake news."