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Taliban warns of ‘consequences’ if US delays withdrawal

The Taliban will not agree to an extension of the evacuation mission from Afghanistan, and is “warning of consequences” if it is prolonged.

The move would mean “extending occupation” and that is “a red line”, Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban delegation in Doha, the capital of Qatar, said on Monday.

United States President Joe Biden said on Sunday that the “hard and painful” airlift of Americans and tens of thousands of others from Afghanistan’s capital is accelerating, but he would not rule out extending it beyond the August 31 deadline he set before the Taliban’s swift takeover.

The airport has been the scene of chaos since the Taliban seized the Afghan capital on August 15 as US and international forces try to evacuate citizens and vulnerable Afghans. A NATO official has said that at least 20 people have died in and around the airport in the past week.

An Afghan security guard has been killed in a firefight between unknown gunmen and Afghan forces at the north gate of Kabul airport, the German military said, as thousands thronged the airport, seeking to flee Taliban rule.

Three more people were injured in the gun battle on Monday morning that has also involved German and US forces, the German military said on Twitter.

Spain could temporarily host up to 4,000 Afghans, who had worked for the United States, at two military bases used by the U.S. military in southern Spain, the defense minister Margarita Robles said on Monday.

Robles said that under the agreement reached between Madrid and Washington the Afghans could stay in Spain for up to two weeks.

The agreement follows a deal reached over the weekend by U.S. President Joe Biden and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to host Afghans at the Rota (Cadiz) and Moron de la Frontera (Seville) air bases.

In response to the Taliban’s objection to the possible extension of the August 31 deadline for US troops to leave the Kabul airport, US national security adviser said the movement of American forces is up to President Joe Biden only.

“Ultimately, it will be the president’s decision how this proceeds; no one else’s,” Sullivan said at a news briefing.

Still, he confirmed that Washington is “engaging” and “consulting” with the Taliban on “every aspect of what’s happening in Kabul right now”.

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