The Taliban announced Tuesday that it will no longer allow Afghan nationals to go to the Kabul airport in order to flee the country.
“We are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told reporters during a news conference Tuesday morning, according to BBC News. It’s a new development that comes just one week before the U.S. and other NATO forces are slated to fully depart Afghanistan.
Mujahid reiterated that Americans can continue evacuations until the Aug. 31 deadline, but made clear that Afghan nationals are not to be a part of that process.
“They [the Americans] have the opportunity, they have all the resources, they can take all the people that belong to them but we are not going to allow Afghans to leave and we will not extend the deadline,” he stated.
Mujahid said that evacuating foreign nationals beyond the Aug. 31 deadline would be a “violation” of the agreement the U.S. established with the militant regime.
“The way to the airport has been closed now,” the spokesman continued. “Afghans are not allowed to go there now. Foreigners are allowed to go, but we have stopped Afghan nationals to go because the crowd is more, there is danger that people will lose their lives, there might be a stampede.”
The news comes as President Joe Biden considers pushing back the end date for withdrawals as an unknown number of Americans and Afghan nationals who worked with the U.S. government remain trapped inside the country.
Those individuals are believed to be in imminent danger. Several reports have surfaced in recent days indicating that Taliban fighters are executing door-to-door searches and carrying out execution campaigns on women, Christians, and those who worked with the West during the last 20 years of U.S. military occupation.
Yet with the deadline quickly approaching, the Taliban has warned that the U.S. could face “consequences” should they fail to depart the country by the end of the month.
“It’s a red line,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said this week. “President Biden announced that on Aug. 31 they would withdraw all their military forces. So if they extend it, that means they are extending occupation.”