Kabul on high alert amid US withdrawal deadline
Kabul security was ramped up on Saturday as the city braced for reaction from the insurgent Taliban as US troops still present under President Joe Biden’s orders, beyond the May 1 withdrawal deadline agreed in 2020 with the Trump administration.
An increased military presence and security at checkpoints were visible in the Afghan capital, and a security source said the city had been placed on “high alert”.
Military patrols and security were being increased in main cities around the country, the source said.
Under the Trump administration’s February 2020 deal with the Taliban, foreign forces were to withdraw from the country by May 1 while the Taliban held off on attacking foreign troops and bases. But President Biden announced last month after reviewing the situation that forces withdrawal will not take place until September 11.
The Taliban responded to the Biden administration’s move with fiery rhetoric and threatened consequences, boycotting a crucial conference in Turkey scheduled for last month that had been planned to help jumpstart stalling Afghan peace talks in Doha.
Since then, contacts have been maintained, official and Taliban sources say, in an effort to try to get the Taliban back to negotiating table and agree to the extended foreign troop presence.
As of Saturday, it was unclear whether concrete progress had been made and there had been no announcement on an extension.
Meanwhile, on Friday, the eve of the May 1 deadline, envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan and the United States held meetings with Taliban officials and Afghan government negotiators in the Qatari capital.
The Taliban said they discussed the peace process and their request that Taliban leaders be removed from sanctions lists.
Sources also said that a delegation of Taliban political leaders had been in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad this week.
Two Taliban sources and one official source said negotiations had revolved around the proposed deadline extension in exchange for the United States not getting involved in Afghan military operations against the Taliban; getting the Taliban to commit to re-joining the Turkey conference if they were provided with an agenda on what would be discussed there; and possibly declaring a ceasefire over the upcoming Eid holiday.
Edited by Olajumoke Adeleke