May 1 (UPI) — The Taliban warned Saturday of attacks on occupying forces as the United States passes a May 1 withdrawal deadline set under former President Donald Trump.
“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 added that a decision on how to respond would not be made until a consensus was reached among Taliban leadership.
The announcement follows U.S. Special Representative to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad‘s testimony before Congress on Tuesday in which he expressed confidence the Afghan government won’t collapse after U.S. troop withdrawal. The Biden administration delayed the withdrawal deadline by four months — to Sept. 11.
Last year, the Trump administration signed a historic peace deal to end nearly two decades of U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan and set the May 1 deadline for withdrawal, but the defense spending bill required additional opinion from other countries before reducing U.S. troops in Afghanistan. It also allowed Congress to withhold funds for troop reduction in Afghanistan until the Pentagon explained how the change could impact U.S. security.
President Joe Biden said last month it would be “hard to meet” the May 1 deadline, citing “tactical reasons,” and announced plan earlier this month to completely withdrawal the estimated 2,500 troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 with May 1 being the start of the military’s withdrawal.
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.
A watchdog said Friday that Taliban insurgents were behind an 80% increase in “insider attacks” against security forces in Afghanistan 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.