Hours after the Biden administration announced that the remaining 3,500 American troops will return from Afghanistan by the twentieth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, a Taliban spokesperson announced a refusal to join U.S.-facilitated peace talks between the Islamic group and the Afghan government.
“Until all foreign forces completely withdraw from our homeland, the Islamic Emirate will not participate in any conference that shall make decisions about Afghanistan,” Mohammed Naeem, a spokesperson for the Taliban’s political arm, said on Tuesday.
The boycott marks the latest blow to U.S. efforts to strike a deal between the militant group and the government ahead of a scheduled April conference in Istanbul that was viewed as pivotal to Washington’s residual vision for Kabul.
A formal Taliban response to the prospective U.S. pullout was not expected until Wednesday when President Joe Biden is slated to formally announce the withdrawal in a speech. Aides said that, following a policy review, Biden decided to zero out forces several months after the original May 1 deadline that resulted from last year’s accord with the Taliban.
A crucial unknown in the U.S. withdrawal plan was whether the Taliban will consider Biden to have broken that deal by staying beyond the agreed-upon May 1 date. Biden is gambling that a four-month unilateral delay will not prompt the Taliban into a return to violence against departing U.S. forces. [Continue reading…]