The U.S. military led an increasingly desperate effort to evacuate thousands of people from Kabul on Tuesday, when the Taliban warned they would allow foreign troops to evacuate for another week.
U.S. President Joe Biden is under increasing pressure to extend the August 1 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops, with Britain lobbying for a longer attendance at Tuesday’s Virtual G Summit.
About 50,000 foreigners and Afghans have fled Kabul airport since the Taliban came to power 10 days ago.
But as crowds continued to gather outside the airport, Afghans were terrified of living under the Taliban.
Many fear a repeat of the brutal interpretation of Sharia law that the Taliban used when it first came to power in 1996-2001, or revenge for working with a US-backed government for the past two decades.
“The Taliban were the same as they were 20 years ago,” said Nilofar Bayat, a women’s rights activist and former Afghanistan wheelchair basketball captain, after fleeing to Spain.
“If you look at Afghanistan now, it’s all men, there are no women because they don’t accept women as part of society.”
The Taliban, who miraculously accelerated government forces by ending two decades of war, were openly tolerant of the ousting efforts.
But on Monday they described next week’s cut-off date as a “red line.”
Spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News on Monday that “if the United States or the United Kingdom wanted extra time to continue the eviction – the answer is no … it will have consequences.”
He said any foreign military presence outside the agreed deadline would be ‘increased occupation’.
The Taliban have hailed Biden’s decision to hasten an agreement reached by his predecessor, Donald Trump, to withdraw almost all American troops from Afghanistan.
However, after the fall of Kabul to oversee the airlift, he was forced to redo thousands of troops.
Biden and his top allies have repeatedly insisted that they aim to meet their August 31 deadline.
“The goal is to get people out as quickly as possible,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Monday.
“Towards the end of the month we’re focused on trying to do that as much as possible.”
But European and British leaders wanted more time.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace says Prime Minister Boris Johnson will raise the issue at the G7 Virtual Summit.
Germany also said it was in talks with NATO allies and the Taliban to keep Kabul airport empty after August 31, while France said it needed “extra time to complete ongoing activities”.
The rush to leave Kabul gave rise to horrific scenes and killed at least eight people.
Some were crushed to death and at least one, a young football player, fell from a plane and died.
One Afghan soldier was killed and three others were wounded in a gun battle with unknown assailants on Monday, the German Defense Ministry said.
The new government
The Taliban is currently working to form a government, but two sources in the movement told AFP that there would be no cabinet announcement until the last US troops left Afghanistan.
The Taliban has repeatedly claimed to be different from its 1990 incarnation and has announced a general amnesty for government forces and officials.
But an intelligence assessment conducted for the United Nations said militants were hunting down the homes of former government officials and those who had worked with US and NATO forces.
In the capital, former rebels have exercised some sense of peace, with their fighters patrolling the streets and operating checkpoints.
But they also want to end the latest significant Afghan military resistance against their rule, which is made up of former government forces in the Panjshir Valley north of the capital.
Panjshir has long been known as an anti-Taliban base.
One of the leaders of the movement, the National Resistance Front, is the son of the famous anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Masood.
Another is Amrullah Saleh, a vice president and intelligence chief of the fallen government.
The Taliban have said they have sent troops out of the valley, but would like to end the talks.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was created automatically from a syndicated feed.)