Taliban spokesman says US should stop evacuating skilled Afghans, cautions on deadline

Taliban spokesman says US should stop evacuating skilled Afghans, cautions on deadline
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told a press conference in Kabul that the group 'ask[s] [the US] to stop' taking 'Afghan experts' out of the country.
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Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid spoke at a Kabul press conference [Sayed Khodaiberdi Sadat/Anadolu/Getty-archive]

A Taliban spokesman on Tuesday said the United States should stop evacuating skilled Afghans, and warned Western forces against extending the 31 August deadline for airlifts out of the country.

The hardline Islamist group said Americans were taking "Afghan experts" such as engineers out of the country.

"We ask them to stop this process," spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a press conference in Kabul.

The Taliban's top spokesman laid out a series of demands during a live broadcast on Tuesday as US-led troops have ramped up operations to get thousands of people out of Kabul.

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The spokesman repeated the group's earlier announcement that the Taliban would not allow the US to extend next week's deadline for a complete withdrawal.

"They have planes, they have the airport, they should get their citizens and contractors out of here," said Mujahid.

President Joe Biden has said he hopes to stick to the 31 August deadline he set to pull out American forces, but he is facing pressure from European allies and Britain to go beyond the date.

About 50,000 foreigners and Afghans have fled the country from Kabul's airport since the Taliban swept into power nine days ago, according to the US government.

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Many Afghans fear a repeat of the brutal interpretation of Islamic law the Taliban implemented when they were first in power from 1996-2001, and retribution for working with the US-backed government over the past two decades.

The Taliban, who ended two decades of war with an astonishingly swift rout of government forces, have been publicly tolerant of the evacuation effort.