CIA Director Burns met with Taliban leader in Kabul: US official
It is the highest-level meeting between the Biden administration and Taliban since the fall of the Afghan capital
Jennifer Griffin, Ronn Blitzer | Fox News
CIA Director William Burns secretly met with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul on Monday, a senior U.S. official confirmed to Fox News.
First reported by the Washington Post, the rendezvous was the highest-level in-person meeting between the Biden administration and the Taliban since the group took control of Afghanistan’s capital earlier this month.
The meeting took place as the U.S. continued to evacuate Americans still remaining in Afghanistan and Afghan allies who had assisted U.S. forces before their government fell to the Taliban.
France, the UK and Germany have all mentioned extending the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline in order to carry out an orderly exit, the BBC reported.
“We are concerned about the deadline set by the United States on August 31,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s foreign minister, told the network. “Additional time is needed to complete ongoing operations.”
“The British position is we want to stay longer if it is possible to do so,” U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said, according to The Associated Press.
Wallace, however, told Sky News that he is pessimistic about the U.S. extending their timeline.
“I think it is unlikely,” he told Sky News. “Not only because of what the Taliban has said but if you look at the public statements of President Biden I think it is unlikely.”
The Pentagon said in a Monday briefing that it will consider leaving American troops in Afghanistan past Aug. 31, in consultation with Biden and allies, but dismissed the idea of the U.S. military taking back Bagram Airfield to speed up evacuations.
Meanwhile, Taliban officials told Reuters that they are unwilling to extend the deadline and the “occupation” by U.S. forces. The group warned about “consequences” if the deadline is extended.
The U.S. ramped up its evacuation efforts in recent days, getting roughly 21,600 people out of Afghanistan in a 24-hour period that ended early Tuesday morning. A senior U.S. official is describing it as “an historic operation in scope and scale.”
According to Gen. Stephen Lyons, who is in charge of U.S. Transportation Command, a C-17 is taking off from Kabul every 48 minutes.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said the progress has been aided by cooperation from the Taliban.
“Thus far, and going forward, it does require constant coordination and deconfliction with the Taliban,” Kirby said. “What we’ve seen is, this deconfliction has worked well in terms of allowing access and flow as well as reducing the overall size of the crowds just outside the airport.”
Fox News’ Edmund DeMarche and Cameron Cawthorne, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Jennifer Griffin currently serves as a national security correspondent for FOX News Channel . She joined FNC in October 1999 as a Jerusalem-based correspondent. You can follow her on Twitter at @JenGriffinFNC.