The Taliban have demanded that all foreign military personnel leave Afghanistan before the September deadline. Western armies in the country are now in the final stages of their withdrawal, but there are said to be planning to leave troops behind to guard the US embassy in Kabul and the capital’s major airport.
“If they don’t live up to the commitments in the Doha Agreement, our leaders will have to decide how to proceed,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told the BBC. He referred to the deal signed in the capital of Qatar with the previous US administration. The Taliban promised there that they would no longer allow extremist groups such as al-Qaeda to operate from areas they control.
The spokesman emphasized that the Taliban have no problem with foreigners, only with the international forces. “We are against the foreign military forces, not against diplomats and NGOs,” emphasized Shaheen. He said it is in the interests of the Taliban if foreign embassies continue to function. “We are not a danger to them.”
Not all countries seem to be happy about that. Australia closed the embassy in Kabul earlier this year for security reasons. Violence in Afghanistan continued to escalate in the final phase of the Western withdrawal. The Taliban are said to have overrun at least 28 of the country’s 421 districts in the past week alone. Demoralized security forces often withdrew without fighting.
In Kabul, the departure of Western allies is being followed with great concern. Last week, the New York Times reported that President Ashraf Ghani has largely secluded himself in his presidential palace. He hardly ever appears in public anymore. Government officials complained that they had not heard anything about a plan to halt the advance of the Taliban.
Taliban spokesman Shaheen told the BBC that it is “not the Taliban’s policy” to take Kabul by force of arms. He did say that all foreign military personnel, including employees of private military companies, must leave the capital of Afghanistan in good time. He described the whole country as an “Islamic emirate”.