By SUSANNAH GEORGE AND SHARIF HASSAN | The Washington Post |
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Taliban issued a warning to U.S. and NATO forces of possible counterattacks as the original May 1 deadline for the complete withdrawal of foreign troops passed, stoking fears of increased violence in response to President Joe Biden’s extension of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan to Sept. 11.
Taliban fighters are prepared to “take every counteraction” that the movement “deems appropriate against the occupying forces,” said Zabiullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, in a statement Saturday. Mujahid said the group’s leadership had not yet made a decision on how to respond to the delayed pullout and its fighters would not act before a consensus is reached.
Afghans are bracing for an increase in violence as foreign forces withdraw from the country, and the Pentagon has warned that U.S. forces may be at risk of attack with the May 1 deadline’s passage.
An intensified diplomatic push is aiming to secure a peace deal between the Taliban and Afghan government before the withdrawal is complete, but there have been no announcements of progress.
Afghanistan has already seen an uptick in violence in recent days. Taliban fighters overran a small Afghan army base on the edge of Gazni’s provincial capital Saturday, south of Kabul. And Friday night, a truck bombing in neighboring Logar province killed at least 21 people and injured 91, according to the Interior Ministry. All the victims were civilians, many students, as the attack occurred near a university prep dormitory, the statement said.