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Taliban refuses to deny holding secret meeting with CIA


The Taliban has refused to deny holding a secret meeting with the CIA after reports emerged that the Islamists met with the agency’s director in Kabul yesterday. 

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Islamists’ chief spokesman, said he is ‘not aware’ of the meeting during a press conference today – but did not deny that it had taken place.

CIA director William Burns is thought to have met with the Taliban’s de-facto leader Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul to discuss – among other things – the August 31 deadline to withdraw foreign forces from the country.

Mujahid made the Taliban’s position clear today, saying the group will ‘not accept’ any extension to the deadline and will stop Afghans leaving the country afterwards.  

Zabihullah Mujahid, the Taliban’s chief spokesman, refused to confirm or deny a meeting with senior CIA bosses at a press conference in Kabul today

‘All people should be removed prior to that date,’ Mujahid told a press conference in Kabul. ‘If [western countries] wish to remove people before then, they can. 

‘[But] after that we will not allow people to leave, we will take a difference stance.’

He spoke a day after another Taliban spokesman – Suhail Shaheen – warned of ‘consequences’ if western soldiers overstay their welcome.

His remarks also came as Biden met with other world leaders at a G7 virtual summit, where they are expected to ask him for an extension of the deadline.

The UK, Germany, France and Spain have all warned that evacuations will not be completed by that date, meaning that some of those offered sanctuary will end up being left behind in a major embarrassment for the west.

Mujahid then urged thousands of people trying to flee the country via Kabul airport to ‘go home’ – adding: ‘We guarantee your safety’. 

Mujahid said America and other western governments should stop evacuation flights immediately and accused them of taking the ‘educated elite’ out of Afghanistan which he said will hurt the rebuilding effort.

‘Unfortunately the Americans are still.. taking Afghan people out of the country to an uncertain future,’ he said.

‘We would like to say to the Americans – our doctors, our engineers, our educated elite, we need those people in the country.

‘We do not want them out of the country to work in [American] institutions, or work as plain laborers in those countries.’ 

Quizzed by journalists about the repression of women under Taliban rule, Mujahid insisted restrictions on their movements are ‘temporary’ while security is fragile.

Asked about atrocities being reported to the UN since the Islamists took power, he suggested this was the result of fighters not being ‘trained’ properly.

William Burns

Abdul Ghani Baradar

William Burns, director of the CIA (left), was said to have met with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar (right) in Kabul on Monday to discuss evacuations

Taliban fighters pose on the streets of Kabul as the Islamist group says no Afghan citizens will be allowed to leave the country after August 31

Taliban fighters pose on the streets of Kabul as the Islamist group says no Afghan citizens will be allowed to leave the country after August 31

Biden will be forced to make a decision later today after an emergency G7 call with world leaders including Britain’s Boris Johnson and German Chancellor Angela Merkel who are expected to urge the president to extend the deadline.

But the Taliban has warned of ‘consequences’ if the US crosses that ‘red line’ and today doubled-down on its threat, telling foreign nations: ‘Don’t encourage Afghans to leave.’

A White House official on Monday told Reuters that Biden will make his decision within 24 hours to give the Pentagon time to prepare.

Rescue efforts became increasingly urgent today as Spain warned it would have leave people behind and France said it would stop airlifts on Thursday – five days before the deadline – if the US could not secure an extension.  

About 50,000 foreigners and Afghans have fled the country from Kabul’s airport since the Taliban swept into power nine days ago, according to the US government.

Many Afghans fear a repeat of the brutal interpretation of sharia law that the Taliban implemented when first in power from 1996-2001, or retribution for working with the US-backed government over the past two decades.

The Taliban, who ended two decades of war with an astonishingly swift rout of government forces, has been publicly tolerant of the evacuation effort.

The Taliban achieved their stunning victory thanks to Biden pulling out nearly all American troops from Afghanistan, following through on a deal struck with the movement by then-president Donald Trump.

However, Biden was forced to redeploy thousands of troops after the fall of Kabul to oversee the airlift.

French President Emmanuel Macron (right) is pictured during a virtual meeting of G7 leaders (left, on the screen) where Afghanistan will top the agenda

French President Emmanuel Macron (right) is pictured during a virtual meeting of G7 leaders (left, on the screen) where Afghanistan will top the agenda

Joe Biden is being pressured by allies including France to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 deadline to help get everyone with visas out of the country

Joe Biden is being pressured by allies including France to keep troops in Afghanistan beyond the August 31 deadline to help get everyone with visas out of the country

The rush to leave Kabul has sparked harrowing scenes and left at least eight people dead.

Some have been crushed to death and at least one, a youth football player, died after falling off a plane.

The German defence ministry said Monday an Afghan soldier was killed and three others wounded in a firefight with unknown assailants.

Margarita Robles, the Spanish defence minister, said the security situation was getting worse.

‘The Taliban are becoming more aggressive, there is gunfire, violence is more obvious,’ she said in an interview with news radio Cadena Ser.

‘The situation is frankly dramatic and besides, with each passing day, it is worse because people are conscious that time is running out.’ 

The Taliban have repeatedly claimed to be different from their 1990s incarnation, and have declared an amnesty for government forces and officials.

But an intelligence assessment conducted for the United Nations said militants were going door-to-door hunting former government officials and those who worked with US and NATO forces.

In the capital and other cities, the former insurgents have enforced some sense of calm, with their fighters patrolling the streets and manning checkpoints.

The Taliban are also intent on quashing the last notable Afghan military resistance to their rule, made up of ex-government forces in the Panjshir Valley, north of the capital.

The Panjshir has long been known as an anti-Taliban bastion.

One of the leaders of the movement, named the National Resistance Front, is the son of famed anti-Taliban commander Ahmad Shah Massoud.



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