Taliban says foreign troops staying after Sept. 11 will be considered occupiers

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The Taliban is warning any foreign troops remaining after President Biden’s Sept. 11 deadline to pull the US military from Afghanistan will be considered an “occupying force,” according to a report on Monday.

Most US and NATO troops have pulled out of the war-torn country — with the clearest indication of the pace of the withdrawal coming last week when the US handed over Bagram Airfield to Afghan security forces. ​

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen​, speaking with the BBC from Qatar, called the pullout from the base, once the US military’s largest in Afghanistan, a “historic moment.”

Shaheen said Taliban leaders will decide how to respond if any foreign troops remain.​​

“If they leave behind their forces against the Doha agreement then in that case it will be the decision of our leadership how we proceed,” Shaheen told the BBC, referring to the faltering peace talks between the Taliban and Afghan officials.

“We would react and the final decision is with our leadership,” he continued.

The US has not revealed when the final troops will leave Afghanistan, but some American forces may remain to protect Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport. 

Shaheen said diplomats, foreign civilians or members of non-government organizations left behind 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,” Shaheen said.

The Taliban has continued to take territory in Afghanistan, moving north from their southern strongholds, and many fear that once the US departs, the militant group will overrun Kabul. 

Shaheen said seizing Kabul by military means was “not Taliban policy​.​”​

Under an agreement​ reached with the Taliban in February 2020, the Trump administration would withdraw US troops from Afghanistan by May 2021 in return for the Taliban not allowing Al-Qaeda to use the country as an operation base, as the terror group did as it planned the 9/11 attacks. 

Biden announced in April that his administration would not meet the May deadline and extended it to the 20th anniversary of the terror attacks. 

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