Selasa, 24 Agustus 2021

CIA chief ‘held secret meeting with Taliban’ -

The Taliban has demanded the US stop inviting locals to fly out of Afghanistan and has now blocked them from Kabul airport.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid says the Taliban are no longer allowing Afghan nationals to go to Kabul airport because of the chaotic situation there.

At a news conference, he said crowds at the airport should go home and their security would be guaranteed.

But he said the US had kept on inviting people to the airport to board planes.

“We ask the Americans,” he said. “Don’t encourage Afghans to leave … We need their talent.”

He added that Afghan media outlets were now working again, as were hospitals, schools, university and local government.

It comes as US Central Intelligence Agency chief William Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, according to the Washington Post.

The Monday meeting, which if confirmed will have been the highest-level encounter between the Islamist group and the Biden administration since the militants’ return to power, came as efforts to evacuate thousands of people from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan became increasingly urgent.

Mr Burns is one of US President Joe Biden’s most experienced diplomats; while Mr Baradar, who headed the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, is one of the top leaders in the regimen that has taken power in Kabul.

A spokesman for the CIA would not confirm the meeting to AFP, saying that the agency “never discusses the director’s travels.”

The Washington Post, which cited anonymous US sources for the meeting, did not the content of the discussions between the Taliban co-founder and the CIA boss.

But it said it was likely they revolved around any delay in the deadline for the United States to finish evacuations at the airport of the Afghan capital, where thousands of Afghans, terrified by the return of the Islamists, are still massed with the hope of fleeing the country.

Mr Biden has set an August 31 deadline to finish the chaotic airlift organised by thousands of temporarily deployed US and UK troops, but has left the door open to an extension if needed.

But a spokesman for the Taliban warned Monday the hard line Islamist group would not agree to any extension, calling the issue a “red line”, with any delay viewed as “extending occupation”.

“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News.

The newspaper said the meeting took place on Monday.

A virtual G7 summit is scheduled to review the evacuations later today.

It comes as both the UK and Germany say Western allies will not be able to fly every Afghan who needs protection out of Kabul before the United States’ planned August 31 withdrawal deadline.

Britain’s Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said he will push the US to extend the August 31 evacuation deadline but said he is “unlikely” to succeed.

The UK will chair the emergency talks among the group of wealthy countries later today.

France has also called on Washington to push back the timeline. But hours before the summit, Mr Wallace acknowledged that both US President Joe Biden and Taliban leaders now in power in Kabul had cast serious doubt on evacuations continuing into September.

“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.

“It is definitely worth us all trying, and we will.”

“If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the leaders of the world’s top economies should also have an eye on the “next phase” for Afghanistan.

His office said he will urge fellow leaders to step up support for refugees and to restate their “commitment to safeguarding the gains made in Afghanistan over the last 20 years – in particular on girls’ education and the rights of women and minorities”.

Britain currently chairs the G7, which also comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United States.

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said there is no way everyone who needs to be will be evacuated by August 31.

“Even if (the evacuation) goes on until August 31 or even a few days longer, it will not be enough to allow those who we, or the United States, want to fly out,” Mr Maas told Bild TV.

Allies must therefore plot out how they can keep getting people out of Afghanistan even if the military operation ends as scheduled.

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2021-08-24 13:38:25Z

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