Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said Wednesday that Afghans should stop attempting to reach Kabul's international airport, and reiterated that the militant group would not agree to extend the Aug. 31 deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw.
Why it matters: The evacuation effort has ramped up significantly over the last 48 hours, but given Mujahid's statement that "we are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave" the window to complete the operation could soon begin to close.
What he's saying: Mujahid said the journey to the airport was dangerous and that Afghans should instead remain in the country and help to rebuild it. He also claimed the Taliban would guarantee their security after the U.S. left.
- Afghans continue to flee, clearly not trusting such assurances from the Taliban. There have been reports of reprisals against people who worked for the ousted government or with NATO troops.
- Mujahid seemed to be responding in part to concerns about a brain drain from Afghanistan, with many educated people attempting to get out.
Between the lines: The Taliban has said Afghans will continue to be able to obtain passports and fly out of the country after the U.S. hands over control of the airport, but it's unclear whether and how the airport will operate after the U.S. troops leave.
The state of play: President Biden is attending a virtual meeting of the G7, where allied leaders were expected to press him to seek an extension of the Aug. 31 deadline to give them more time to evacuate their citizens, Afghans who worked with NATO forces, and others who might be vulnerable under the Taliban.
- Mujahid reiterated that the Taliban saw Aug. 31 as a firm deadline and said there was sufficient time to get foreign nationals out before then, which he said was in the interest of both sides.
- But he urged Afghans who had crowded outside the airport and continued to try to reach it to return home.
Mujahid also seemed to confirm reports that women had been told not to return to work in offices and government ministries, but claimed it was due to temporary security concerns and that women would eventually be able to return to work.
- He didn't confirm or deny reports that the Taliban's political director, Abdul Ghani Baradar, met in secret on Monday with CIA Director Bill Burns.