geopolitics-00950
Afghan people climb atop a plane as they wait at the Kabul airport in Kabul

A Taliban spokesman in Doha, Qatar, said the new rulers of Afghanistan would not accept an extension to President Joe Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

“You can say it’s a red line,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News in an interview Monday.

“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no,” Shaheen told Sky News. “Or there would be consequences.”

If the U.S. extends the deadline, “that means they are extending the occupation,” Shaneen told Sky News. “That will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation, it will provoke a reaction.”

In the interview, Shaheen does not specify what kind of reaction or consequences would result should Biden order the military to extend his mandated Aug. 31 deadline to evacuate U.S. and NATO personnel, as well as thousands of Afghans fearing life under the Taliban after helping the U.S. and allies.

About 33,000 American citizens and Afghan allies have been evacuated from the country since late July, 11,000 in the last few days alone. The moves come as tens of thousands more are seeking to escape the country amid the fall of the democratic government there and the return to Taliban rule.

During a Monday morning press briefing, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby did not address the Taliban’s statement, saying only that the deadline for U.S. withdrawal remains Aug. 31.

About 6,000 U.S. military personnel are deployed to the Kabul airport to help with securing the area and processing of refugees out of the country. Earlier Sunday, during an appearance on Meet the Press, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan left open the possibility of increasing that total in coming days.

Advocates have said that thousands of would-be evacuees are trapped in the region just outside the Kabul airport, blocked from the safety of American protection by Taliban checkpoints or paperwork problems preventing their entry to the airfield.

Taking questions from reporters after his speech Sunday evening, Biden hinted that such an extension might be possible.