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CIA head secretly met with Taliban leader as military evacuations in Afghanistan continue

CIA Director William Burns
Posted at 7:56 AM, Aug 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-24 07:56:37-04

WASHINGTON — A U.S. official says that CIA Director William Burns visited Kabul on Monday to meet with the Taliban's top political leader.

The official told The Associated Press the meeting between Burns and Abdul Ghani Baradar came amid the ongoing evacuations at the Kabul airport.

The Washington Post first reported Burns' meeting with Baradar.

The U.S. official confirmed the report on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.

The CIA declined to comment on the meeting in a statement to NBC News, citing the agency's policy of never discussing the travels and meetings of its director.

The meeting comes as President Joe Biden's self-imposed Aug. 31 deadline to complete evacuation efforts in Afghanistan looms in just one week.

While evacuations from the Kabul airport have picked up in recent days, they're still lagging behind the maximum of up to 11,000 people a day the Pentagon projects it can fly out of the country.

While dozens of military aircraft are arriving and departing Kabul every day, reports indicate that Americans and Afghans seeking to leave the country are struggling to reach the airport. The Taliban have set up checkpoints throughout the country, and large, dense crowds have surrounded the airport as people seek escape from Taliban rule.

Officials have also confirmed that Americans are facing threats from ISIS-K, an offshoot branch of the Islamic State that is a sworn enemy of the Taliban.

Biden says he remains open to extending the evacuation deadline and has noted that discussions are continuing.