Taliban threaten there'll be ‘consequences if withdrawal delayed’ as UK in race to evacuate 12,000 desperate Afghans

THE Taliban has warned "there will be consequences" if the NATO troop withdrawal is delayed as the UK races to airlift 12,000 desperate Afghans.

Taliban spokesperson Dr Suhail Shaheen said Western troops would be crossing a "red line" if they stayed beyond the August 31 deadline.

Shaheen told The Sun: "All forces should withdraw on the timeline they announced – 31 August."

He insisted people could still flee the country once commercial flights reopen.

“They can evacuate anyone through commercial flights, with visas issued by the concerned country,” Shaheen added.

But stranded Afghans warned they will be barred from getting visas because most of the western embassies have closed.

Shaheen also said that "if the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences," according to Sky News.

"It will create mistrust between us. If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction," he added.

This comes as James Heappey, Britain's armed forces minister, warned this morning that Kabul would turn into a warzone if US and British forces go against the Taliban's wishes.

The UK will double its airlifts in Kabul to 12,000 this week as Boris Johnson pleads with US president Joe Biden to extend the withdrawal deadline.

Prime Minister Johnson will hold a virtual meeting of world leaders tomorrow to push for more time to save innocent Afghans.

Nearly 6,000 Britons, Afghan staff and their families have now been airlifted out by the RAF – but there are now plans to fly out a further 6,000.

Heappey said 1,800 eligible eligible citizens and 2,275 local allies had been identified, but more were coming forward all the time.

"We will get out as many as we possibly can," he told Sky news. 

He added that the "hard reality" was that without US support there would be international airlifts past August 31.

Britain says its forces have evacuated more than 5,700 people chiefly U.K. citizens and Afghans from Kabul in the last 10 days, 1,821 of them in the past 24 hours.

This comes as paratroopers were yesterday seen yards away from the Taliban at Kabul airport.

Brit troops were searching the thousands of Afghans desperate to leave while armed Taliban kept watch.

Troops are reportedly relying on the jihadi militants to keep peace at Kabul airport as evacuations attempts continue.

One Taliban fighter even jumped onto a sea container with his AK-47 to keep watch as Paras processed refugees and provided food, water and first aid.

This comes as tension flared up after a firefight broke out between an unidentified gunmen, NATO troops and Afghan guards at Kabul airport.

One Afghan guard was killed and three others were injured in the battle which involved US and German forces, the German military said on Twitter.

The report does not say if the Afghan was a Taliban fighter.

This follows the deaths of seven people, including a toddler, who were crushed to death in a stampede at Kabul airport as desperate families attempt to flee the Taliban.

Carnage reigns as thousands trying to escape from Afghanistan continue to descended on the last escape route as they hope to get aboard a plane travelling to the West.

Harrowing scenes – described as some of the worst since the Taliban took over – occurred on Saturday as there was a horrific crush and stampede outside the airport as crowds surged amid gunfire.

Men, women and children were crushed together in 31C heat – many without provisions – as there were reports of people collapsing from exhaustion and asphyxiation.

Taliban officials however have blamed the US for the carnage – saying "America, with all its power and facilities… has failed to bring order to the airport".

"There is peace and calm all over the country, but there is chaos only at Kabul airport," said official Amir Khan Mutaqi .

One mum, a former interpreter, revealed her two-year-old daughter was trampled to death as the family attempted to get to the airport, reports the New York Times.

The unnamed woman told how the crowd surged as the family was thrown the ground, with other desperate escapees simply trampling them.

She couldn't breathe and when she came to her feet she searched for her daughter, only to find the little girl dead.

"I felt pure terror. I couldn’t save her," she said.

The Ministry of Defence said in a statement that seven Afghan civilians have been killed trying to flee the Taliban in the crush.

A spokesman added: "Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible."

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Meanwhile, another Afghan woman – named only as Sara -told The Observer she had witnessed at least 15 people – including children shot dead since the Taliban took power last Sunday.

"Please, get us out of here. The situation is very bad, we are trapped in a hell," she said.

Sara described the scenes outside the airport with crowds packed so tightly you cannot breath – with the situation growing worse every day as supplies run low amid a putrid stench of rubbish.

She said: "There is violence everywhere but every gate we go to is closed and no one gives us any information or shows any mercy."

Sky News reporter Stuart Ramsay yesterday also described the "utterly horrendous scenes" and "absolute pandemonium" at the airport as he witnesses people "crushed to death".

British and US troops were "firing into the air" to try make people step back, while the shouts for "medics and stretchers is almost continuous", Ramsey explained.

NATO estimates around 20 people have been killed during evacuation operations around Kabul Airport.

Other videos from today appear to show US soldiers firing into the air and using trucks to control a crowd who made it onto the landing strip.

British paratroopers are desperately trying to manage to chaos at the airport amid fears the evacuation mission could collapse in days – with the West in a race against time to evacuate its citizens and refugees.

Images released by the Ministry of Defence show a packed RAF plane whose passengers included citizens from Afghanistan eligible to settle in Britain as four women were crushed to death in chaotic scenes to escape. 

But Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said "no nation will be able to get everyone out" of Afghanistan as he predicted growing crowds at Kabul airport as "desperate people" race to escape the Taliban.

Yet the Cabinet minister looked to assure those who are almost certain to be left behind that the UK will continue to work to repatriate them even once troops are home.

It comes as Taliban death squads are reportedly pulling people from their homes and executing them as they step up the hunt for anyone who helped the US and UK.

Writing for the Mail on Sunday, the Cabinet minister called the retreat of allied forces "unedifying" and warned that the events of the past weeks "will have consequences for us all for years to come".

He said: "I have said all along that no nation will be able to get everyone out.

"It is a source of deep sadness for many of us across Nato, and no-one wanted 20 years of sacrifice to end this way.

"We will do our best to the very last moment.

"But it isn't the end. We shall stand by our obligations and are investigating now how to process people from third countries and refugee camps."

Wallace said the UK would establish a series of processing hubs across the region outside Afghanistan for those Afghans the UK has an obligation to take in.

And he said the latest issue at Kabul airfield is that there are "too many people in the airport", bringing about "a suspension of access".

The Ministry of Defence stressed, however, that the suspension applied only to the US-side of the operation at Hamid Karzai International, and that neither UK flights nor processing was affected by the pause.

Nearly 4,000 people had been evacuated by Britain from Afghanistan since August 13.

Sky News said it had spoken to British troops at the airport who, having served in Afghanistan previously, said the queues, crushing and desperation of people to get out of the country were the worst scenes they had witnessed during their service.

Meanwhile, the US has warned its citizens due to "potential security threats outside the gates".

Sir Laurie Bristow, Britain’s ambassador in Afghanistan, said: "The scale of this effort is enormous and is without a doubt the biggest international challenge I have worked on as a diplomat.

I have said all along that no nation will be able to get everyone out

"Lives are at stake and I am incredibly proud of the tenacious efforts of my team during these challenging times, with military and civilian staff working together to successfully evacuate thousands of people in the last week.

"We will continue to work tirelessly to get British nationals, Afghan staff and others at risk out of the country as quickly as possible as we also support Afghanistan's long-term future."

UK PM Boris Johnson has paid tribute to Sir Laurie and his team who are aiding repatriation efforts at Kabul airport.

Johnson told reporters after an emergency Government meeting that the situation in the central Asian country was "slightly better", although the airport scenario has since worsened.


But it is a race against time.

US President Joe Biden signalled he wanted the evacuations completed by the end of the month — a move that would likely force Britain to wrap up its operation at the same time.

Officials said they were continuing to "work closely" with US military partners to "ensure the security and viability of the evacuation mission in Kabul".

But there are reports of tension between Washington and London, with claims the UK Government was kept in the dark about the timetable for the US withdrawal of its armed forces.

Further British troops are being held "at readiness in the region and the UK" to move to Afghanistan "at speed" if required, the MoD said.

The MoD is looking at establishing hubs in countries such as Pakistan and Turkey.

In a briefing on Saturday, the US Department of Defense said 17,000 people have been flown out of the airport, including some 2,500 US citizens.

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