The Taliban has warned that any foreign troops left in Afghanistan after the 11 September deadline set for their withdrawal are at risk.
The militant group has already claimed that it now controls about 100 of nearly 400 districts of Afghanistan triggering fears that the country may be inching back towards a civil war.
The US and other Nato members have agreed to pull out foreign troops following a commitment that Taliban won’t allow any terrorist group including Al-Qaeda to operate in the areas they control.
As a result, US President Joe Biden set 11 September as the deadline for the withdrawal, a date which also marks the 20 year anniversary of the 9/11 attack on America.
But Taliban spokesman warned that if any foreign troop is left behind including military contractors then how they proceed will be the decision of its leadership.
“We would react and the final decision is with our leadership,” Mr Shaheen told the BBC speaking from the Taliban’s Qatar office. He added that diplomats, NGOs and other foreign civilians would not be targeted.
“We are against the foreign military forces, not diplomats, NGOs and workers, and NGOs functioning and embassies functioning – that is something our people need. We will not pose any threat to them,” the Taliban spokesperson clarified.
He also described the withdrawal of the US forces from Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan last week as a “historic moment”.
Mr Shaheen also said that many districts are now under their control just by mediation as Afghan soldiers refused to fight. Afghanistan’s government, meanwhile, maintains that they are ready for talks but the onus is on the Taliban to show their resolve for peace.
It was in October 2001 following the attack by the Al-Qaeda that the US-led forces ousted the Taliban from power in Afghanistan as the militant group was accused of harbouring Al-Qaeda’s chief Osama Bin Laden.
Though the Taliban has committed to not harbour extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda, the experts fear that may not remain the case.
For instance, former director of Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS), Rahmatullah Nabil, tweeted: “Taliban have taken territories in Northern #AFG specifically Badakhshan with the help of Alqaeda (Al-Qaeda) & ETIM fighters.”
“Qari Faseehuddin has the support of foreign elements. Jaish ul Nasr brigade of Alqaeda (Al-Qaeda) & others are fully active. Haji Furqan is leading ETIM (Eastern Turkistan Islamic Movement) in the North,” Mr Nabil said.
On Sunday, more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel were said to have fled across the border into Tajikistan after Taliban advances in northern Afghanistan, according to the Tajik border guard service, while dozens of others were captured by insurgents.
On Sunday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani spoke to his Tajik counterpart, President Emomali Rakhmon, by phone to discuss the developments. Afterwards, the Tajik president’s office, in a statement, said that “special attention was paid to the escalation of the situation in Afghanistan’s northern areas adjacent to Tajikistan”.
It added that Mr Rakhmon expressed concern about “forced crossings” by members of the Afghan security forces. Reuters news agency reported that Tajikistan is looking into setting up camps for potential refugees from Afghanistan.
While Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, who was in Moscow on Monday for security talks, said that government forces had not anticipated the Taliban offensive but would counterattack.
Russia, which operates a military base in Tajikistan, said the Russian consulate in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif was suspending operations over security concerns, TASS news agency reported.
Source: The Independent