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As U.S. troops fully withdraw from Afghanistan ahead of the September 11 deadline, the Taliban warned in a BBC interview that foreign troops still in the country beyond that date will be treated as occupiers and face consequences, amid reports that 1,000 U.S. and Nato troops will stay behind to safeguard key installations as the militant group gains ground across the country.

Key Facts

Under a deal struck in 2020, the Taliban has agreed to stop extremist groups like al-Qaeda operating in its territory in exchange for the U.S. and its Nato allies completely leaving Afghanistan. 

Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson, told the BBC in an interview published Monday that any troops staying behind would be violating the Doha agreement setting this arrangement out. 

Shaheen said the group “would react” to remaining military as occupiers, though said “the final decision is with our leadership.”

The statement comes amid an uptick in violence as the Taliban captures more territory while foreign troops withdraw, and concerns for the wellbeing of diplomatic staff operating in the area. 

While the majority of U.S. troops are on course to leave well before Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline, between 650 and 1,000 are reported to be staying in order to secure the Kabul airport and American embassy.

Shaheen told the BBC it was “not Taliban policy” to take Kabul by force and that the group will “not pose any threat to” diplomats, foreign civilians and NGOs. 

Key Background

President Joe Biden’s plans to withdraw all remaining U.S. forces from Afghanistan by 9/11 marks an end to the longest war in American history. The date is symbolic, as the war was started following the Taliban’s refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks.  The vacation of Bagram air base in early July, a major installation, indicates that full U.S. withdrawal is near. The withdrawal of Nato forces has sparked consternation from politicians and foreign policy experts, many of whom are worried about the fragile state of the Afghan government. Afghanistan’s ambassador to the U.S., Roya Rahmani, said she is especially worried for the rights of women under Taliban rule.    

What To Watch For

As forces withdraw, the Taliban has been making strides in recovering weapons and equipment. Much of this was donated or sold to Afghan forces in order to help it fight the Taliban. Outnumbered, poorly supplied and demoralized, many Afghan troops reportedly pose little resistance to Taliban forces, who have swept through the country. The Taliban now controls around a third of the country’s 421 districts.  

Further Reading

U.S. Military Vacates Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base After Nearly Two Decades (Forbes)

Afghanistan: All foreign troops must leave by deadline – Taliban (BBC)

Afghan Ambassador Is ‘Worried’ About Her Country’s Future After U.S. Leaves. Here’s Why Some In Congress Agree. (Forbes)

 The Taliban are making gains as US pulls out of Afghanistan – and showing off a treasure trove of armoury and ammunitions (Sky)

Source: Forbes

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