As the withdrawal deadline for US soldiers in Afghanistan approaches, CIA Director William Burns attended a covert meeting with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul on Monday.
The meeting is the highest-level face-to-face engagement between the Biden administration and the Taliban since they seized control of the capital city on August 13, according to US sources familiar with the subject who spoke to The Washington Post on the condition of anonymity.
While the CIA refuses to comment on the Taliban meeting, it is likely that the conversations focused on the US military exit deadline of August 31.
The meeting takes place while the Biden administration faces a number of challenges.
France, Germany, and the United Kingdom, according to the BBC, have all expressed support for extending the deadline.
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“We are concerned about the United States’ August 31 deadline,” France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, told the BBC. “Continued activities will require additional time.”
While the UK Secretary of State for Defense has indicated support for British troops remaining in Afghanistan for as long as feasible, he told Sky News that an extension is “unlikely.”
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said, “I believe that is unlikely.” “I believe it is doubtful, not only because of what the Taliban has said, but also because of President Biden’s public pronouncements.”
“It’s accurate to argue that the security risk increases as we go closer; it becomes more and more risky,” Wallace added.
US military experts have given President Joe Biden till Tuesday to determine whether to extend the deadline.
While Biden has stated that there have been negotiations about extending the deadline, Taliban commanders have warned that staying in Afghanistan over the pullout date will have “consequences.”
“It’s a red dotted line. President Biden declared that all military forces would be withdrawn on August 31. So if they extend it, that means they’re extending occupation when it’s not required “Dr. Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s leader, told Sky News.