CIA Director William Burns secretly met with Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul on Monday, a senior US official confirmed to Fox News.
First reported by the Washington Post, the rendezvous was the highest-level face-to-face meeting between the Biden administration and the Taliban since the group took control of the Afghan capital earlier this month.
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The meeting took place as the United States continued to evacuate Americans still in Afghanistan and Afghan allies who had assisted American forces before their government fell to the Taliban.
France, the UK and Germany have all mentioned extending the August 31 withdrawal deadline in order to make an orderly exit on the the BBC reported.
“We are concerned about the deadline set by the United States of August 31,” Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister of Foreign Affairs, told the channel. “Additional time is required to complete ongoing operations.”
“The British position is that we want to stay longer if it is possible to do so,” British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said, according to the Associated Press.
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Wallace, however, told Sky News he was pessimistic about the United States extending their schedule.
“I think it’s unlikely,” he told Sky News. “Not only because of what the Taliban said, but if you look at President Biden’s public statements, I think it’s unlikely.”
The Pentagon said in a briefing Monday that it would consider leaving US troops in Afghanistan after Aug.31, in consultation with Biden and his allies, but rejected the idea of the US military taking over the airfield from Bagram to speed up evacuations.
Meanwhile, Taliban officials told Reuters they did not want to extend the deadline and “occupation” by US forces. The group warned of the “consequences” if the deadline is extended.
The United States has stepped up its evacuation efforts in recent days, removing an estimated 21,600 people from Afghanistan over a 24-hour period that ended early Tuesday morning. A senior US official describes it as “a historic operation in scope and scale”.
According to General Stephen Lyons, head of the US Transportation Command, a C-17 takes off from Kabul every 48 minutes.
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Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said progress was facilitated by Taliban cooperation.
“So far, and going forward, this requires constant coordination and conflict resolution with the Taliban,” Kirby said. “What we have seen is that this deconfliction has worked well in terms of access and flow as well as reducing the overall size of the crowd just outside the airport.”
Fox News’s Edmund DeMarche and Cameron Cawthorne, and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
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