The US is on a collision course with the Taliban over President Biden’s statement that the Americans will remain in Afghanistan until all their citizens are evacuated. The question is whether the Taliban, who today called the US arrogant, will accept that.
Biden’s ruling will not have gone down well with the Taliban, who at the same time must worry about growing resistance to their takeover. A day after demonstrations in Jalalabad, Ahmad Massoud, son of a vital mujahedin leader against the Russians, called for an uprising against the Taliban. He asked the US to provide military support quickly.
Biden raised eyebrows in Washington and Kabul with his statement that the evacuation mission may continue after August 31, when all US military personnel are withdrawn. The president said the 3,500 military personnel would remain at the airport until all American citizens who want to leave are evacuated. There are an estimated 15,000 Americans in the country, many of them of Afghan descent.
Under the peace deal with the Taliban, US soldiers were supposed to have left the country by May, but Biden postponed this to August 31. “If any American citizens are left, we will stay until we get them all out of the country,” Biden told ABC News. “We will do everything in our power to get all Americans and our allies out. So the Americans need to understand that we are going to try to get it done before August 31.”
The US plans to evacuate some 5,000 to 9,000 civilians from Kabul every day soon. But the question is whether that is feasible. The major problem is that many Americans, foreigners and Afghans, have difficulty reaching the airport. As of Thursday, the US and other countries, including the Netherlands, had flown away some 8,000 of their citizens and former Afghan employees.
On Wednesday, Taliban fighters set up checkpoints at the airport and cracked down on civilians, mostly Afghans, who tried to reach the airport. As a result, the US embassy in Kabul is asking Americans not to come to the airport on their own again unless they have been informed that they will be evacuated.
The Taliban, who are currently tolerating the evacuation operation, has not yet responded to Biden’s statements. However, a prolonged US military presence in Kabul could frustrate their efforts to consolidate power over the country.
On Thursday, during the Independence Day celebrations, they lashed out at the US. “With our jihadist resistance, we forced an arrogant global power, the US, to withdraw from our sacred area,” the militant movement said in a statement.