KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) — A Taliban spokesman on Tuesday urged skilled Afghans to stop fleeing the country, and warned that it would not accept any extension of the August 31 deadline for evacuations.
The hardline Islamist group said Americans were taking “Afghan experts” such as engineers and doctors out of Afghanistan.
“We ask them to stop this process,” spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said at a press conference in Kabul.
“This country needs their expertise. They should not be taken to other countries,” Mujahid added.
The Taliban’s top spokesman laid out a series of demands during a live broadcast Tuesday as US-led troops have ramped up operations to get thousands of people out of Kabul.
The spokesman repeated the group’s earlier announcement that the Taliban would not allow the US to extend next week’s deadline for a complete withdrawal.
“They have planes, they have the airport, they should get their citizens and contractors out of here,” said Mujahid.
The spokesman also tried to offer assurances, promising that women would be allowed to return to the workforce once security was established in the country.
“We want them to work but we want the security to be right,” he told reporters.
President Joe Biden has said he hopes to stick to the August 31 deadline he set to pull out American forces, but he is facing pressure from European allies and Britain to go beyond the date.
About 50,000 foreigners and Afghans have fled the country from Kabul’s airport since the Taliban swept into power nine days ago, according to the US government.
Many Afghans fear a repeat of the brutal interpretation of Islamic law the Taliban implemented when they were first in power from 1996-2001, and retribution for working with the US-backed government over the past two decades.
The Taliban, who ended two decades of war with an astonishingly swift rout of government forces, have been publicly tolerant of the evacuation effort.
© Agence France-Presse