Taliban Urges Afghans Not to Flee Afghanistan, Refuses to Budge on Deadline

By Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.
August 24, 2021 Updated: August 24, 2021

The Taliban on Tuesday said Afghans should not leave Afghanistan and refused to agree to an extension of the looming U.S. withdrawal deadline.

“We are sending a message to the Americans again to evacuate their citizens by [Aug. 31] because they have the means to do so, they have planes and the airport is with them and they have to transfer all the forces and contractors who have relation [sic] with foreigners,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, told reporters during a press conference in Kabul.

“We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave—won’t allow them—and after that, we will not allow [Americans] to be here and we will take a serious position, God willing,” he added.

Mujahid also said that American officials should “please change your policy and don’t encourage Afghans to leave.”

The United States is using the airport it holds in Kabul to evacuate thousands of Afghans in addition to Americans and citizens of other countries.

U.S. President Joe Biden previously said the United States would complete its withdrawal from Afghanistan by Aug. 31.

As of Tuesday, there has been no change to the timeline, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington.

The U.S. military is committed to getting any Americans who want to leave Afghanistan out before the deadline, he said, adding, “We believe that we have the capability, the ability to get that done by the end of the month.”

Some members of Congress and U.S. allies have expressed doubt that the mission will be complete by the deadline and have called on Biden to extend it.

If he does not, then other countries will likely be forced to pullout, even if evacuations aren’t complete, the United Kingdom’s defense minister said this week.

The United States and the United Kingdom were among the countries participating in a virtual Group of 7 meeting on Tuesday. Biden was scheduled to deliver remarks afterwards at the White House.

Epoch Times Photo
Groups of people wait on the tarmac at Kabul’s airport, Afghanistan, on Aug. 23, 2021. (Satellite Image 2021 Maxar Technologies/Handout via Reuters)
Epoch Times Photo
Afghans board a U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster III transport plane during an evacuation at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Afghanistan on Aug. 22, 2021. (U.S. Air Force via Reuters)

Evacuations Ramp Up

The United States, with assistance from allies, has been able to greatly increase the pace of evacuations in recent days, ferrying out some 21,600 people from 3 a.m. Eastern on Aug. 23 to 3 a.m. Eastern on Aug. 24, according to a White House official.

In addition to 37 U.S. military flights, 57 commercial and ally flights left Kabul’s airport. That amounted to approximately one flight every 45 minutes.

Now, since Aug. 14, America has evacuated or facilitated the evacuation of 58,700 people.

“We’re able to achieve this level of increased departures because of U.S. military personnel and our partners’ work around the clock to conduct this highly important mission, including airport security and flight operation,” Major Gen. Hank Taylor told reporters at the Pentagon.

Afghan evacuees are being flown to various nations, including Israel, Germany, and Spain. Some are designated for the United States, which is preparing space for approximately 25,000 at military bases in four states.

In the past 24 hours, four flights with more than 1,000 evacuees in total landed at Dulles International Airport in Washington, officials said.

Officials declined to give a firmer figure on the number of Americans who have been evacuated than “several thousand” and continued to say they don’t know how many Americans remain in Afghanistan.

Zachary Stieber
Zachary Stieber
Reporter
Zachary Stieber covers U.S. news, including politics and court cases. He started at The Epoch Times as a New York City metro reporter.