A Taliban leader speaks in Kabul

Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, a leader of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network, speaks in Kabul, Afghanistan on August 20, 2021. (Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times)

'The Answer Is No': Taliban Reject Idea of US Extending Exit Deadline

Any extension of the withdrawal deadline would mean the U.S. is "extending the occupation," said a Taliban spokesperson.

Taliban leaders on Monday said they will not accept any effort by the Biden administration to extend its August 31 deadline for the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, warning that such a move would be certain to "provoke a reaction."

"If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations--the answer is no," Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News in an interview Monday. "Or there would be consequences."

Characterizing the August 31 date as "a red line," Shaheen said an extension would mean the U.S. its allies are "extending the occupation."

"That will create mistrust between us," said Shaheen, who asked the London-based interviewer how the people of her country would react if the Taliban were to occupy Britain.

"If we occupy your country, what you will say to me?" he said. "Maybe I killed your people in your country, what you will say? I think our people suffered a lot. Bloodshed, destruction, everything. But, we say the past is the past... a part of our past history. Now, we want to focus on future."

Mohammad Naem, a Taliban spokesman in Qatar, echoed Shaheen, saying Monday that the U.S. "should finish the evacuation by August 31 as they have promised."

While U.S. President Joe Biden has not explicitly said he intends to push back the withdrawal deadline, he toldABCNews last week that American troops will remain in Afghanistan until evacuations are complete. There are currently around 6,000 U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan.

"If there are American citizens left, we're going to stay until we get them all out," said Biden.

On Sunday, Biden publicly confirmed that there have been talks "among us and the military about extending," but the president said the administration's "hope is that we will not have to extend."

"There are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process," the U.S. president told the press.

Pentagon officials announced Monday that the U.S. has thus far evacuated 42,000 people from Afghanistan--including American troops, foreign nationals, and Afghans who worked with U.S. occupation forces--since the Taliban retook the capital of Kabul earlier this month. The Biden administration has said it doesn't know how many U.S. citizens are still in Afghanistan, nor is it clear how many Afghans are seeking to flee.

Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday that Biden administration officials have "seen the statements" by Shaheen and other Taliban officials opposing an extension of the withdrawal deadline.

"I think we all understand that view," Kirby said.

CNNreported Monday that leaders of G7 nations--a group that includes top U.S. allies such as Germany and France--are "planning to press President Joe Biden to extend the deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from Afghanistan during a Tuesday morning meeting."

"Biden has not publicly committed to such a move," CNN notes, "worrying some allies who fear there won't be enough time to get their citizens and Afghan allies who assisted in the war effort out of the country."

The ongoing evacuation effort at Kabul's international airport has been highly chaotic, and at least 20 people have been killed attempting to flee the country. On Monday, a firefight broke out between unidentified gunmen and U.S., German, and Afghan forces, leaving one Afghan soldier dead and three others wounded.

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