CIA Director William J. Burns had a secret face-to-face meeting with Taliban co-founder and deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar on Monday (Aug. 23) in Kabul, Afghanistan; The Washington Post reports. The covert meeting, which was confirmed on Tuesday (Aug. 24) by two U.S. officials, arrives after the Taliban threatened the U.S. with “consequences” if American troops are not withdrawn from the country by Aug. 31.
According to CNN, Burns and Baradar are also the two highest-ranking officials from the U.S. and the Taliban to meet face-to-face since the group took control of Kabul last week. An anonymous U.S. official told CNN that President Joe Biden set up the meeting, which they described as “an exchange of views on what needs to happen to be done.”
So far, the U.S. has evacuated thousands of American citizens and Afghan allies from the country’s capital. Biden previously said he’s confident that evacuations will be completed by the Aug. 31 deadline, but committed to staying in the country “until we get them all out.”
However, on Monday, a Taliban spokesperson told Sky News if American troops are not withdrawn from Afghanistan by the end of the month, the U.S. will face “consequences.”
“It’s a red line,” spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said of the deadline. “President Biden announced that on 31 August they would withdraw all their military forces. So, if they extend it that means they are extending occupation while there is no need for that.”
“If the U.S. or U.K. were to seek additional time to continue evacuations — the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,” he continued, adding that an extension will create a “mistrust” and “provoke a reaction.”
As reported by REVOLT, Biden is expected to decide whether or not an extension will be necessary by today, as advised by the U.S. military. So far, he has not publicly committed to a decision.