KABUL: The Taliban on Wednesday said they would no longer participate in peace talks for Afghanistan until all US-led troops withdrew from the country, amid reports that President Joe Biden was expected to delay the May 1 deadline by four months.
“This is our stance: until all foreign forces completely withdraw from our homeland, the Islamic Emirate (the name of the Taliban’s government) will not participate in any conference that shall make a decision on Afghanistan,” Dr. Mohammad Naeem, the group’s Qatar-based spokesman, told Arab News on Wednesday.
According to a plan disclosed by US officials on Tuesday, Biden is expected to withdraw remaining troops by Sept. 11 — the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that sparked Washington’s longest conflict in history — instead of May 1, as agreed upon by the Trump administration and the Taliban in a controversial deal more than a year ago.
Since assuming office, Biden has said he would review the Qatar accord, saying in recent weeks that it would be “a tough move” to abide by the May 1 deadline.
As per the agreement, the Taliban halted attacks on US-led troops but increased strikes on Afghan government forces who rely on the US for air and intelligence support, and financial and logistical resources.
The Taliban had also warned Washington of consequences if it decided to extend the deadline for withdrawal.
In recent months, President Ashraf Ghani’s government urged Biden to withdraw troops on a condition-based agreement but not before the Taliban agreed to a ceasefire.
Ghani’s spokesmen were unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News on Wednesday.
However, Waheed Omar, an adviser for Ghani, tweeted on Wednesday that Biden is expected to talk to the Afghan president “in the near future to officially share details of the new withdrawal plan.”
He added: “Until then, we will not comment on the details.”
In another tweet, he said: “We will respect any decision taken by the US government with regards to their troops. ANSDF (Afghan National Security Defense Forces) has been defending our people with high morale the past two years and have recently conducted close to 98 percent of operations independently.”
He added: “They are fully capable of doing that in the future.”
However, during an open session on Wednesday, the head of the Afghan parliament raised alarm about the country’s future after the departure of American troops.
“With the current situation, the conditions for the withdrawal of foreign troops are not fair,” Mir Rahman Rahmani said.
“The withdrawal of foreign forces in the current situation would worsen the situation and will lead to a civil war,” he added.
On Wednesday, NATO officials meeting in Brussels said the alliance was also likely to withdraw its soldiers from Afghanistan, according to media reports.
Biden’s new dateline also throws into doubt the future of US-backed talks in Turkey on April 24, which several observers said could be one of the final international efforts to broker peace between the insurgent group and the Afghan government.
Proposed by Washington, Turkey was expected to host the intra-Afghan talks to prevent a total collapse of the US-sponsored negotiations which began in Doha in September last year, but this plan failed to materialize.
Fawzia Koofi, an Afghan government-appointed negotiator for the intra-Afghan talks in Qatar last year, said that Washington “needs to work with the Taliban to attend Turkey’s conference.
She told Arab News that: “The Taliban need to get engaged in the negotiations to pave the way for the withdrawal; meaningful negotiations will pave the way for the withdrawal.”
Ahmad Samin, a former adviser for the World Bank, agreed and said that Afghanistan is “heading to a crisis in the face of a total collapse of talks as the Taliban will endeavor to seize power again.”
He told Arab News: “The Biden administration is frustrated with the Afghan government, which is too corrupt, and the majority of American people want to end the endless Afghan war.”
Samin added: “The Taliban are taking advantage of the situation. I believe the Taliban are not interested in power sharing, and they will try to go for full victory, which will result in catastrophic internal conflict. Everything regarding Afghanistan’s future is uncertain, and no one knows what will happen.”