CIA Chief William Burns Met With Senior Taliban Figure in Kabul
William Burns, CIA Director, met secretly with the Taliban’s top figure in Kabul on Monday, according to new reports from US officials. The meeting came amid efforts to evacuate American citizens and Afghan allies and controversy over whether to extend the operation beyond the August 31 deadline set by the Taliban. Many details regarding the meeting remain unclear, however, the CIA chief’s crisis diplomacy hints towards the US’s desire to extend the evacuation efforts. On Monday, the Taliban rejected any extension of the deadline. The CIA declined to comment on the meeting.
Burns met with Ghani Baradar, one of the Taliban’s top figures, amid rising security conditions around the Kabul airport that not only complicates evacuation attempts but puts military forces and civilians at risk. Last week, there was an exchange of gunfire at the site that wounded several individuals. Senior US officials warned that terrorists from the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate could attack the crowds that have amassed outside of the airport to wait for flights. The airport remains in US control. Officials are also concerned that the Taliban and its allies, who have not yet attacked US military personnel during the evacuation, could retract this policy after the deadline.