CIA Director William J. Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul on Monday with the Taliban’s current leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, according to U.S. officials familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.
President Joe Biden’s decision to send his top spy, a veteran of the foreign service and the most decorated diplomat in his Cabinet, comes amid a frantic effort to evacuate people from Kabul international airport in what the president has called “one of the largest, most difficult airlifts in history.” The CIA declined to comment on the Taliban meeting but the discussions likely involved the impending Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. military to conclude its airlift of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.
A CIA rep also would not confirm the meeting to Agence France-Presse, saying that the agency “never discusses the director’s travels.” Thousands of Afghans, terrified by the return of the militants, are still desperately trying to enter Kabul airport with the hope of fleeing the war-torn country. Biden has set an Aug. 31 deadline to finish the chaotic airlift organized by thousands of temporarily deployed US and British troops, but has left the door open to an extension if necessary.
But a Taliban spokesman warned Monday that the group would not agree to any extension, calling the issue a “red line” — with any delay viewed as “extending occupation,” AFP reported. “If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: WASHINGTON POST
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