(ORDO NEWS) — The head of the CIA held a secret meeting in Kabul with the de facto leader of the Taliban Abdul Ghani Baradar. Although the topic of the talks is not disclosed, according to experts, it is about an attempt by NATO countries to increase the terms of evacuation of military and civilians from Afghanistan, writes The Washington Post.
On Monday, CIA Director William J. Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul with de facto Taliban leader * Abdul Ghani Baradar. These were the highest-level negotiations between the Taliban and the Biden administration since the militant takeover of the Afghan capital. This was reported by American officials, who asked not to be named due to the particular delicacy of these contacts.
President Biden sent his top intelligence officer, veteran of the Foreign Service and most distinguished diplomat to his office in a desperate attempt to evacuate people from Kabul International Airport. Biden called the operation “one of the largest and most complex airlifts in history.”
The CIA declined to comment on the meeting with the Taliban, but during the discussions, the parties most likely discussed the timing of the completion of the evacuation of US citizens and Afghan allies by the American military.
Some allies are demanding that the Biden administration leave US troops in Afghanistan beyond the announced withdrawal date to help evacuate tens of thousands of US and Western citizens, as well as Afghan allies desperate to leave the Taliban-ruled country.
Britain, France and other US allies say they need more time to evacuate their personnel, but a Taliban spokesman warned the US that they will “cross the red line” if they leave troops after August 31, and that this will entail unspecified “effects”.
For Baradar, meeting with the CIA director, there is a subtle irony in this meeting, since the intelligence agency arrested him 11 years ago in a joint operation with Pakistan and spent eight years in prison.
But the Taliban leader is familiar to Western countries.
Coming out of jail in 2018, he led a Taliban delegation in talks with the United States in Qatar that resulted in an agreement with the Trump administration to withdraw US troops. In November 2020, he was photographed with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against the backdrop of gold-trimmed chairs.
As a close friend of the founder and supreme leader of the Taliban, Mohammad Umar, Baradar is believed to have great influence among the rank and file of the movement. He fought with Soviet troops during the occupation of Afghanistan, and in the late 1990s, when the Taliban ruled the country, Baradar was the governor of several provinces.
When the Taliban invaded Afghanistan, he spoke in a conciliatory tone, stating that his movement is committed to creating “an Islamic system in which the people of the country can participate without discrimination and live in harmony and in an atmosphere of brotherhood.” But his statements come amid reports of the Taliban closing girls’ schools, seizing property and attacking civilians in parts of the country.
Burns, with whom Baradar met on Monday, is one of the most accomplished American diplomats. In the past, he served as Deputy Secretary of State and also served as the US Ambassador to Russia.
In April, Burns made an unreported trip to Afghanistan. It was then that doubts began to grow about the Afghan government’s ability to repel a Taliban offensive following the withdrawal of American troops.
Burns heads the department that trained the elite Afghan special forces. They were considered a powerful force in Afghanistan, but special forces were also involved in the killings of people without trial or investigation and in human rights violations.
In testifying in Congress this year, Burns said that neither the Islamic State * nor al-Qaeda * have the capacity to carry out terrorist attacks on US soil. However, he said: “When the time comes for the withdrawal of the US military, the US government will have much less ability to gather information about threats and to counter them. It’s just a fact.”
On Monday, before the secret meeting was known, State Department spokesman Ned Price was asked why senior US officials are not in contact with Baradar, even though the situation in Afghanistan is very difficult and the stakes are high.
“Our discussions with the Taliban are of an operational, tactical nature,” Price replied. “We focus on immediate operations and immediate goals … – what is happening at the airport … This is what we are focusing on at the moment.”
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