CIA Director William Burns secretly met the top Taliban figure in Kabul on Monday amid a chaotic US effort to evacuate American citizens and Afghans allied with the US in advance of an August 31 deadline, US officials said, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Details of the meeting weren’t immediately available, but the CIA chief’s crisis diplomacy comes as the Joe Biden administration in the US is considering whether to extend the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from the Kabul airport beyond the deadline for a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The Taliban had on Monday rejected any extension of the August 31 deadline. However, Biden recently said, “If there are American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out,”.
Biden came under fierce criticism for his handling of the withdrawal of forces which subsequently witnessed massive chaos unfurling at the heart of Afghanistan, leading thousands to leave the country in a bid to escape the Taliban rule.
The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has declined to comment on Burns’s meeting with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, which was earlier reported by the Washington Post.
The concern is rising among officials in the US and other nations about security conditions around the Kabul airport despite Joe Biden having reportedly said a few days ago that the Taliban was cooperating in helping to get Americans out of the country but difficulties are arising in evacuating U.S.-aligned Afghan citizens.
Senior US officials have warned that terrorists from Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate could attack the crowds massed outside the airport. Officials also fear the Taliban and their allies, who have not attacked US military personnel during the evacuation process, could change their posture after August 31.
…With IANS inputs