Middle East/North Africa

CIA director met secretly with Taliban leader in Kabul: report

CIA Director William Burns met with the Taliban’s leader, Abdul Ghani Baradar, on Monday, U.S. officials familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

The Post reported that discussions likely involved the Aug. 31 deadline for the U.S. to conclude evacuating U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.

A CIA spokesperson declined to comment on the reported meeting to The Hill. The Hill has also reached out to the White House for comment.

On Monday, State Department spokesman Ned Price addressed why U.S. officials hadn’t engaged Baradar, saying that discussions thus far had been “tactical.”

“It is largely a function of the fact that our discussions with the Taliban have been operational. They have been tactical. They have been focused on, focused largely on our near-term operations and our near-term goals,” Price said.

The reported meeting comes as the White House seeks to evacuate people from Kabul’s international airport ahead of an impending deadline.

President Biden has come under pressure to extend the deadline beyond Aug. 31, but a Taliban spokesperson said the U.S. would be crossing a “red line” if troops stayed beyond that date. 

White House deputy press secretary Chris Meager said Tuesday morning that 21,600 people were evacuated within the last 24 hours, bringing the total evacuated since Aug. 14 to 58,700.

The Taliban took over major cities and a number of provinces across Afghanistan in just over a week, culminating in the capture of Kabul, including the presidential palace, earlier this month. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani left the presidential palace that day.

Baradar, co-founder of the Taliban, is the group’s most public leader, though Haibatullah Akhundzada is the supreme commander of the group. The Post noted that Baradar is believed to have significant influence over the Taliban rank-and-file.

Baradar arrived in Afghanistan last week for the first time in 10 years, traveling to the group’s birthplace of Kandahar. He arrived in Kabul on Saturday to begin talks for the formation of a new government in Afghanistan.

Updated at 7:47 a.m.

Tags Afghanistan Afghanistan evacuations Joe Biden Taliban William Burns

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