The Taliban has threatened to resume hostilities against foreign troops in Afghanistan if they did not meet the May 1 deadline to withdraw.
If the May 1 deadline was not met, the Taliban would be “compelled to … continue its Jihad and armed struggle against foreign forces to liberate its country”, the group said in a statement on Friday.
The armed group’s threat followed comments by US President Joe Biden, who on Thursday said it would be hard to withdraw the last US troops by the deadline, which was agreed with Washington last year.
“It’s not my intention to stay there for a long time,” Biden said, “We will leave. The question is when we leave.” When asked if US troops will still be in Afghanistan next year, he said, ”I can’t picture that being the case.”
The Taliban said it was committed to the agreement, which it termed the “most sensible and shortest path” to end the conflict.
Responsibility for its prolongation “will be on the shoulders of those who committed this violation,” the statement said.
Under the February 2020 deal negotiated by Biden’s predecessor Donald Trump’s administration, the US promised to withdraw all 2,500 US troops left in Afghanistan.
In return, the Taliban pledged to renounce violence, prevent groups such as al-Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base from which to attack US and allied targets and enter into intra-Afghan peace talks.
Yet violence continues to plague the South Asian country, including a recent rise in killings of journalists, aid workers and government employees.
The US’s longest conflict
More than 100,000 Afghans have been killed or wounded since 2009 when the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan began documenting casualties.
Since 2002, the US has spent $143bn on reconstruction in Afghanistan, including $88bn for training and support of the Afghan army.
Biden, like his predecessor, has promised to end the nearly 20-year conflict, the US’s longest, and bring American soldiers back to the country.
Roughly 7,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan rely on the US for logistics and security support.
Germany extends mission
Earlier this week, Germany paved the way for its troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline. Legislators approved a new mandate which allows the German military to keep up to 1,300 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission until January 31, 2022.
The current parliamentary mandate for the German operation expires at the end of March.
The German government has warned that a premature withdrawal of NATO troops could jeopardise the intra-Afghan peace talks, adding that NATO troops would need to prepare for Taliban violence if they stay beyond the end of April.