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Taliban spokesman: August 31 withdrawal date 'red line'

Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid in Kabul, Afghanistan on 17 August 2021 [Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency]
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid in Kabul, Afghanistan on 17 August 2021 [Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency]

A Taliban spokesperson on Monday warned of "consequences" if foreign forces stayed in the country beyond Aug. 31, calling the date just over a week from now a "red line", Anadolu Agency reported.

"It's a red line," Suhail Shaheen told Sky News in Doha, Qatar. "President Biden 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."

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

"It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction," he warned.

President Joe Biden on Sunday said the US is considering extending the deadline, pledging that any American who wants to leave Afghanistan will be evacuated.

'Migration due to economy, not Taliban'

Asked about the scenes at Kabul airport, with Afghans desperate to flee the country after the Taliban took over, Shaheen insisted it was not fear of the Taliban driving them, but economic migration.

"I assure you it is not about being worried or scared," he said, although the rush only began when the Taliban victory seemed imminent.

"They want to reside in Western countries and that is a kind of economic migration because Afghanistan is a poor country and 70% 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."

Shaheen also dismissed reports of the Taliban threatening former government workers and closing girls' schools as "fake news."

"I can assure you there are many reports by our opponents claiming what is not based on realities," he said.

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Specifically on the issue of women's rights – an issue many in the West have stressed, given the Taliban's record on the matter – Shaheen said: "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," he added.

Shaheen continued: "Now, women teachers have resumed work. Lost nothing. Female journalists they have resumed their work. Lost nothing."

Asked what they would say to the families of foreign soldiers who died fighting in Afghanistan, Shaheen said: "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."

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