Taliban refuses to deny holding secret meeting with CIA

Taliban refuses to deny holding secret meeting with CIA as the group issues new evacuation ‘red line’ threat to Biden and vows to ‘guarantee the safety’ of desperate Afghans if they stay

  • Taliban spokesman neither confirmed nor denied secret meeting with CIA boss 
  •  Zabihullah Mujahid said he is ‘not aware’ of any meeting taking place, but did not outright deny it when quizzed by journalists in Kabul
  • Comes after reports that CIA director William Burns met with Taliban chief Abdul Ghani Baradar to discuss August 31 troop withdrawal
  • Mujahid said Afghans will not be allowed to leave the country after that date 

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.

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