The Taliban on Friday issued a warning against the United States on defying a May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from Afghanistan, promising a “reaction” though failing to specify exactly what it would be.
The Taliban issued their warning during a press conference in Moscow, the day after meeting with senior Afghan government negotiators and international observers in an attempt to jump-start a stalled peace process to end Afghanistan’s decades of war.
President Joe Biden, in a television interview, said that it will be “tough” for the United States to withdraw forces from Afghanistan in six weeks under an agreement negotiated by his predecessor with the Taliban, he said that the May 1 deadline “could happen, but it is tough.”
Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban negotiation team warned that staying beyond May 1 would breach the deal.“They should go,” he told reporters.
“After that, it will be a kind of violation of the agreement. That violation would not be from our side … Their violation will have a reaction.”
Though he did not mention what form the “reaction” would take.
“We hope that this will not happen, that they withdraw and we focus on the settlement, peaceful settlement of the Afghan issue, in order to bring about a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire at the end of reaching a political roadmap [for] Afghanistan,” Shaheen said
Shaheen reaffirmed the Taliban were firm in their demand for an Islamic government. With that being said, he also pushed back against the regional players who said that Afghanistan should not return back to an Islamic state.
Shaheen didn’t elaborate on what an Islamic government would look like, but he emphasized that the government of President Ashraf Ghani would not be their definition of an Islamic government.
The United States, Russia, China and Pakistan issued a joint statement on Thursday which said that they “did not support the restoration of the Islamic Emirate”.
But Taliban political spokesman Mohammad Naeem said it was up to Afghans to decide their system of governance and it should be an Islamic system, speaking to media in Moscow on Friday.
“What is stated in the declaration is against all principles and is not acceptable,” he said.
Limited role for women
Suhail Shaheen did not mention how the Islamic government would look like, but bringing back the Islamic government could mean returning to their repressive rules against women that denied girls education, barred women from working, and imposed harsh punishments.
Though in previous statements, the Taliban has said that the new vision of the Islamic government will give much more autonomy to the girls.
They have said they would not accept a woman as president, and while women could be judges they could not take the job of the chief justice.
But even without the Taliban in government in Afghanistan, The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security Afghanistan said Afghanistan was one of the worst places in the world to be a woman in 2020.
The Moscow Conference
The Moscow conference was attended by U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Abdullah Abdullah, head of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council, and Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Representatives of Pakistan, Iran, India, and China also participated.
Russia, the US, China and Pakistan in a statement released after the talks, said that they believe the reduction in violence in Afghanistan was necessary for the warring sides to “create a favourable atmosphere for achieving a politico-diplomatic settlement”.
The joint statement also emphasized that the four countries do not support the restoration of an Islamic emirate in Afghanistan similar to the Taliban’s past rule.