CIA chief William Burns secretly met in Kabul with the leader of the Taliban political bureau Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Washington Post reports, citing anonymous US officials. It was a meeting of the highest-ranking representatives of the administration of US President Joe Biden and the Taliban since the latter took control of the Afghan capital.
The CIA declined to comment on Monday’s meeting, but discussions likely focused on the impending August 31 deadline for the US military to end air traffic of US citizens and Afghan allies, the Washington Post wrote.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is one of the founders of the Taliban movement and the leader of its political structures. Formally, he is the deputy emir of the Taliban Mullah Hajbatullah Ahundzadeh, but, as reported by The Washington Post, Baradar is de facto the leader of the entire movement. He recently returned to Kandahar, Afghanistan, before heading to Kabul, where talks are underway to form a new Afghan government.
Burns is considered the most experienced diplomat in the Biden administration, which shows the high rank of this meeting, “The Washington Post” points out.
The daily added that “for Baradar, playing the role of the counterpart of the head of the CIA has a taste of irony.” Eleven years ago, Baradar, considered one of the Taliban’s chief military strategists, he fled after the US invasion of Afghanistan to Pakistan. However, he was captured and arrested as a result of a joint operation by the CIA and Pakistani intelligence services. He spent eight years in prison. He was released in 2018 when Washington authorities began to consider withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Baradar was needed as an intermediary in peace talks with the Taliban in Doha, the capital of Qatar.
The talks resulted in a Taliban agreement with the Donald Trump administration on the withdrawal of US forces.
President Joe Biden announced that US troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by August 31. Due to the evacuation, the US administration does not rule out an extension of this deadline; the final decision is to be made by the president. The Taliban warned that such a step would have “consequences” on their part and would be crossing the “red line”.
The United Kingdom and France have already announced that the withdrawal of the US military’s backbone security force in Kabul would mark an end to evacuation from the airport.
Washington Post, Reuters, PAP
Main photo source: CIA