Sunday, October 2, 2022

Biden says evacuation before Aug 31; CIA chief meets Taliban’s deputy head

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US President Joe Biden on Tuesday (local time) that Taliban will be judged by their actions and G7 leaders, EU, NATO and United Nations would respond to the terror group’s behaviour accordingly, while collectively agreeing to support refugees and evacuees that are currently fleeing Afghanistan.

“G7 leaders, EU, NATO, United Nations have agreed to stand united in our approach to the Taliban. We’ll judge them (Taliban) by their actions and we’ll stay in close coordination on any steps that we take moving forward in response to Taliban behaviour,” he said at the White House. Biden said the US is on track to get all of its forces out of Afghanistan by Aug 31, as he had previously laid out, but cautioned the timeline is dependent on cooperation from the Taliban.

“We’re currently on a pace to finish (evacuation) by Aug 31. The sooner we finish the better. But completion by Aug 31 depends on Taliban continuing to cooperate & allow access to airport to those who’re transporting out & no disruptions to our operation,” he said.

Biden, in an address on Afghanistan hours after meeting with other world leaders on the evacuation efforts, said he’s asked for contingency plans in the event more time is needed. But he stressed that the situation could deteriorate the longer the US remains in Afghanistan.

Biden said the US and other G7 nations has discussed their “mutual obligation” to support refugees and evacuees that are currently fleeing Afghanistan. Biden pledged that the US would be “a leader in these efforts” and will look to international partners “to do the same.”

Meanwhile, the United States has evacuated or facilitated to get around 70,700 people out of Afghanistan since the Taliban seized control of the war-torn country. “The United States has evacuated or helped to get approximately 70,700 people out of Afghanistan since August 14. Since the end of July, the US has relocated nearly 75,900 people,” he added.

Biden also said that he directed Secretary of State Antony Blinken to provide an update on Wednesday (local time) about the number of Americans who are still in Afghanistan. He underscored that US and allied forces at the Kabul airport face a growing risk of a possible attack from the terror group.

Two days ago, he had informed that he is in discussions with his military officials regarding the extension of the evacuation mission in Afghanistan, beyond the August 31 deadline. The US is flying thousands of people out of Afghanistan every day from Kabul airport. The US forces took control of the airport last week to evacuate its citizens after the Taliban seized control of Afghanistan.

The Central Investigation Agency (CIA) chief held a secret meeting with Taliban’s deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Kabul, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday citing anonymous US officials. William Burns, head of US federal intelligence agency and Baradar met on Monday, so far the highest-level meeting between the Taliban and the Biden administration after Kabul was overtaken by the terror group over a week ago.

The CIA has not commented on the matter yet, however, it is believed that the meeting included discussion on the extension of the August 31 deadline for withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, The Washington Post reported. Burns, one of the most decorated diplomats in the Biden administration, has played key roles in Foreign Service.

Nearly 11 years ago, Baradar was arrested by the CIA in a joint US-Pakistan mission and put behind bars for eight years. Soon after his release in 2018, the Taliban leader initiated peace negotiations with the US. On Monday, the Taliban had refused to extend the August 31 deadline for US troops’ withdrawal.

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen told Sky News that the group would not give the US and the UK any extra time to continue evacuations from Afghanistan stating that if the deadline was not met “there would be consequences.”

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