“As withdrawal of foreign forces from #Afghanistan by agreed upon May 1 deadline has passed, this violation in principle has opened the way for IEA Mujahidin to take every counteraction it deems appropriate against the occupying forces,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tweeted Saturday.
Mujahid went on to say that a decision on how to act would not be taken until the Taliban leadership reached an agreement.
The announcement comes on the heels of US Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad’s testimony before Congress on Tuesday, in which he expressed hope that the Afghan government would not crumble after the withdrawal of US troops. The withdrawal date was pushed back four months, to September 11, by the Biden administration.
The Trump administration negotiated a landmark reconciliation agreement last year to conclude nearly two decades of US military participation in Afghanistan and set a May 1 withdrawal date, but the defence budget bill requested additional input from other countries before decreasing US troops in Afghanistan. It also gave Congress the authority to withhold funding for troop reductions in Afghanistan before the Pentagon clarified how the move could affect US defence.
President Joe Biden said last month that meeting the May 1 deadline would be “hard to meet” citing “tactical reasons,” and declared earlier this month a timetable to fully withdraw the estimated 2,500 troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, with the military’s withdrawal beginning on May 1.
Afghans are preparing for a potential uptick in violence as foreign forces withdraw and the Pentagon has warned U.S. forces may risk attack with the four-month delay, The Washington Post reported.
According to a watchdog, Taliban militants were responsible for an 80 percent uptick in “insider attacks” against Afghan security forces in the first three months of this year.
The Taliban are considered to be at their strongest point since the U.S. invasion in 2001, controlling in full or holding influence over approximately half the country, The Hill reported.
Biden vowed Wednesday in his first annual address before a joint session of Congress to end the forever war in Afghanistan.