Washington: US Central Intelligence Agency chief William Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Washington Post reported Tuesday.
If confirmed, Monday’s meeting will be the highest-level meeting between the Islamic organization and the Biden government since the militants returned to power, as efforts to evacuate thousands of people from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan are becoming more and more urgent.
Burns is one of the most experienced diplomats of US President Joe Biden; and Baradar, who leads the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, is one of the top leaders of the regime in Kabul.
The CIA spokesperson would not confirm the meeting to AFP, saying that the agency “never discussed the director’s travel.”
The Washington Post quoted an anonymous American source as saying that it did not disclose the content of the discussion between the Taliban co-founder and the CIA boss.
But it said that they are likely to be due to whether there is any delay in the deadline for the U.S. to complete the evacuation at the Afghan capital airport. Thousands of Afghans are frightened by the return of Islamists and they are still gathering together in hopes of fleeing the country. .
Biden has set a deadline of August 31 to complete the chaotic airlift organized by thousands of temporarily deployed US and British troops, but he has opened the door for extensions if needed.
But a spokesman for the Taliban warned Monday the hardline Islamist group would not agree to any extension, calling the issue a “red line”, with any delay viewed as “extending occupation”.
“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.
The newspaper said the meeting took place on Monday. A virtual G7 summit is scheduled to review the evacuations on Tuesday.