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CIA director secretly met with Taliban leader in Kabul

CIA Director William Burns speaks during a House Intelligence Committee hearing on worldwide threats in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 15, 2021. Al Drago/Pool via REUTERS


CIA director secretly met with Taliban leader in Kabul


According to a U.S. official and a source familiar with government activities, US President Joe Biden dispatched CIA Director William Burns to meet Taliban commander Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul on Monday, in the highest level official contact since the militant group seized the Afghan capital.

The CIA chief’s crisis diplomacy comes as the Biden administration considers whether to extend the evacuation of tens of thousands of civilians from Kabul airport beyond the deadline for a US army departure from Afghanistan. Any extension was refused by the Taliban on Monday.

The Pentagon is expecting a decision from the White House on Tuesday on whether or not the US will leave Afghanistan by the August 31 deadline, according to a US defense official.

The CIA-Taliban meeting was reported by US news outlets including the New York Times, Washington Post, Associated Press, and public radio station NPR.

Throughout the evacuation process, both on the ground in Afghanistan and in Doha, Qatar, the Biden administration has maintained frequent communication with Taliban officials.

Although there have been reports of beatings and injuries in the airport’s chaotic perimeter, the Taliban have so far allowed the American evacuation mission to go mostly unhindered. Officials from the United States have cautioned that the large crowds may be used as a target for a terrorist assault by the ISIS-K organization, which is known to operate in Afghanistan.


Mr. Burns’ encounter with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, which was previously reported by the Washington Post, was met with silence by the CIA.

If true, this would be the highest-level interaction between the US and the Taliban since the insurgents overran Kabul on August 15, forcing the internationally supported Afghan government to leave.

The discussion also reaffirms the administration’s belief that they need a better grasp of the Taliban’s position on a number of topics as the clock ticks down to the August 31 deadline for soldiers to leave the country, according to the official.

Extending operations beyond August 31 would be a “violation” of the US agreement to depart, a Taliban official told CBS News. “The response depends on the decision of our leadership,” the spokesman stated.

The security situation near the Kabul airport is causing concern among authorities in the United States and other countries.

Thousands of foreign nationals and Afghans are attempting to flee the country, and around 5,800 US troops are now stationed at Kabul airport.

Later Tuesday, a source close to the situation informed CNN that the Qataris assisted with the meeting between Burns and Baradar. The discussion on Monday, according to the source, illustrates the important role Qataris are currently playing in Afghanistan’s future.

In 2010, the CIA and Pakistan’s intelligence service collaborated to arrest Baradar, a veteran Taliban official, in Karachi. In 2018, he was released when the US pushed for his release while negotiating with the Taliban.

He has been the head of the Taliban political office in Qatar since 2019. He signed the Doha agreement on the departure of US and Nato forces in February 2020.

The meeting took place at President Joe Biden’s request, according to a US official, reflecting the perception within the administration that Burns is the most experienced and trusted veteran diplomat on Biden’s team.

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