CIA Director William Burns held a secret meeting with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar on Monday

Joe Biden‘s CIA Director William Burns went to Kabul on Monday for a secret meeting with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, U.S. officials familiar with the matter told The Washington Post.

The discussions, the Tuesday report notes, likely involved the August 31 deadline for all U.S. military presence to be out of Afghanistan – including ending the evacuation of U.S. citizens and Afghan allies.

Burns was dispatched to the capital city of Afghanistan as the administration continues to grapple with a chaotic scene at the airport and struggles to evacuate Americans from Kabul.

Baradar is now playing the role of the Taliban’s counterpart to Burns 11 years after he was arrested in a joint CIA-Pakistani operation, which put him in prison for eight years.

The president will join other G7 leaders on a virtual call Tuesday morning for an emergency meeting on Afghanistan after NATO begged Biden to re-think his plan to avert a humanitarian disaster.

He will then provide an update in remarks Tuesday afternoon. 

Washington pulled off its biggest haul of evacuations since the crisis started over the last 24 hours to early Tuesday morning, with 37 military jets evacuating 21,600 people from Kabul, the White House announced.

‘Since August 14, the U.S. has evacuated and facilitated the evacuation of approximately 58,700 people. Since the end of July, we have re-located approximately 63,900 people,’ a White House official said.

From Sunday to early Monday morning, 28 military jets rescued around 10,400 people.

The president is still hesitant, however, to deploy troops outside the Kabul airport because he doesn’t want a Black Hawk Down-style incident, he told commanders last week of the incident where 18 Americans were killed in 1993 during the Somali Civil War. 

Biden said last week that he will keep U.S. forces in Afghanistan past the impending deadline for complete withdrawal if necessary to continue evacuating as many Americans as possible.

‘If there’s American citizens left, we’re going to stay until we get them all out,’ Biden told ABC News in an interview taped at the White House Wednesday. 

Taliban leaders, however, have warned of ‘consequences’ if the U.S. doesn’t keep to its August 31 deadline. 

CIA Director William Burns testifies during his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Feb. 24, 2021

CIA Director William Burns testifies during his Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on Feb. 24, 2021

Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar speaks at a signing ceremony of the US-Taliban agreement in Qatar's capital of Doha on Feb. 29, 2020

Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar speaks at a signing ceremony of the US-Taliban agreement in Qatar's capital of Doha on Feb. 29, 2020

CIA Director William Burns (left) went to Kabul on Monday for a secret meeting with the Taliban’s de facto leader Abdul Ghani Baradar (right)

Likely discussed at the meeting Monday was the August 31 deadline for total troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. U.S. soldiers guard Kabul airport on Tuesday as thousands of desperate Afghans crowd at the gates in the hopes of fleeing the Taliban

Likely discussed at the meeting Monday was the August 31 deadline for total troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. U.S. soldiers guard Kabul airport on Tuesday as thousands of desperate Afghans crowd at the gates in the hopes of fleeing the Taliban

Likely discussed at the meeting Monday was the August 31 deadline for total troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. U.S. soldiers guard Kabul airport on Tuesday as thousands of desperate Afghans crowd at the gates in the hopes of fleeing the Taliban

President Joe Biden said U.S. military would stay in Kabul past the deadline if needed to continue evacuating Americans stranded in Afghanistan

President Joe Biden said U.S. military would stay in Kabul past the deadline if needed to continue evacuating Americans stranded in Afghanistan

President Joe Biden said U.S. military would stay in Kabul past the deadline if needed to continue evacuating Americans stranded in Afghanistan

Taliban fighters stand on top of containers doing crowd control outside the Kabul airport

Taliban fighters stand on top of containers doing crowd control outside the Kabul airport

Taliban fighters stand on top of containers doing crowd control outside the Kabul airport

Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban delegation in Qatar’s capital city Doha said Monday U.S. military continuing to evacuate past this month would amount to ‘extending occupation’ and that is ‘a red line’. 

‘If the US or UK were to seek additional time to continue evacuations – the answer is no. Or there would be consequences,’ he told Sky News in an interview. ‘

‘It will create mistrust between us,’ Shaheen continued. ‘If they are intent on continuing the occupation it will provoke a reaction.’

After the interview Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said: ‘We have seen the public statements by the Taliban spokesman about their views on 31 August, I think we all understand that view.’

‘The goal is to get as many people out as fast as possible,’ he added, ‘and while we’re glad to see the numbers that we got yesterday, we’re not going to rest on any laurels.’

‘The focus is on trying to do this as best we can by the end of the month and as the Secretary [of Defense] said, if there needs – if we need, if he needs – to have additional conversations with the Commander in Chief about that timeline, he’ll do that but we’re just not at that point right now.’ 

During the G7 meeting, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to press Biden for an extension to get out the maximum number of foreigners and Afghan allies possible.  

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen warned of 'consequences' if Western forces stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of August

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen warned of 'consequences' if Western forces stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of August

Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen warned of ‘consequences’ if Western forces stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of August

An aerial picture taken Monday shows crowds and traffic outside the Kabul airport as Americans and Afghan allies attempt to flee Afghanistan

An aerial picture taken Monday shows crowds and traffic outside the Kabul airport as Americans and Afghan allies attempt to flee Afghanistan

An aerial picture taken Monday shows crowds and traffic outside the Kabul airport as Americans and Afghan allies attempt to flee Afghanistan

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder and head of the political office of the Taliban – Held for eight years in Pakistani prison before being released on orders from the U.S. government 

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban and its deputy-leader, pictured on August 16 after the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban and its deputy-leader, pictured on August 16 after the fall of Kabul, Afghanistan

Pictured: Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder and deputy leader of the Taliban, makes a video statement on August 16 following the fall of Kabul

 Age: 53 years old

Taliban Rank: Co-founder, head of political office

Joined: 1994

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, one of the co-founders of the Taliban, was freed from jail in Pakistan three years ago at the request of the U.S. government.  

Just nine months ago, he posed for pictures with Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to sign a peace deal in Doha which today lies in tatters.

On Sunday, his forces seized Kabul and he is now tipped to become Afghanistan’s next leader in a reversal of fortune which humiliates Washington.

While Haibatullah Akhundzada is the Taliban’s overall leader, Baradar is head of its political office and one of the most recognisable faces of the chiefs who have been involved in peace talks in Qatar.

His name Baradar means ‘brother’, a title which was conferred by Taliban founder Mullah Omar himself as a mark of affection.

The 53-year-old was deputy leader under ex-chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, whose support for Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden led to the US-led invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11. 

Baradar arrived in Kandahar Province on Tuesday, landing in the insurgent group’s former capital just days after they took control of the country.

A Taliban spokesman said on Twitter that Baradar and a high level delegation ‘reached their beloved country in the afternoon’ from Qatar. 

Born in Uruzgan province in 1968, Baradar was raised in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban movement. He fought with the mujahideen against the Soviets in the 1980s until they were driven out in 1989.

Afterwards, Afghanistan was gripped by a blood civil war between rival warlords and Baradar set up an Islamic school in Kandahar with his former commander Mohammed Omar.

The two mullahs helped to found the Taliban movement, an ideology which embraced hardline orthodoxy and strived for the creation of an Islamic Emirate. 

Fuelled by zealotry, hatred of greedy warlords and with financial backing from Pakistan’s secret services, the Taliban seized power in 1996 after conquering provincial capitals before marching on Kabul, just as they have in recent months.

Baradar had a number of different roles during the Taliban’s five-year reign and was the deputy defence minister when the US invaded in 2001.  

He went into hiding but remained active in the Taliban’s leadership in exile.

In September 2020, Baradar was pictured with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who 'urged the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,' the US said in a statement

In September 2020, Baradar was pictured with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who 'urged the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,' the US said in a statement

In September 2020, Baradar was pictured with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who ‘urged the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,’ the US said in a statement

In 2010, the CIA tracked him down to the Pakistani city of Karachi and in February of that year the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI) arrested him.

But in 2018, he was released at the request of the Trump administration as part of their ongoing negotiations with the Taliban in Qatar, on the understanding that he could help broker peace. 

In February 2020, Baradar signed the Doha Agreement in which the U.S. pledged to leave Afghanistan on the basis that the Taliban would enter into a power-sharing arrangement with President Ashraf Ghani’s government in Kabul.

He was pictured in September with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who ‘urged the Taliban to seize this opportunity to forge a political settlement and reach a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,’ the US said in a statement.

Pompeo ‘welcomed Afghan leadership and ownership of the effort to end 40 years of war and ensure that Afghanistan is not a threat to the United States or its allies.’

The Doha deal was heralded as a momentous peace declaration but has been proved to be nothing but a ploy by the Taliban.

The jihadists waited until thousands of American troops had left before launching a major offensive to recapture the country, undoing two decades of work by the US-led coalition.

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The U.S. has ramped up airlifts to evacuate more than 17,000 people in a day and Biden finally ordered troops to rescue Americans outside the airport in a race against time before the withdrawal deadline. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Special Operations rescued 16 Americans from an unspecified location around two hours outside Kabul. The Pentagon revealed it was carried out by helicopter without disclosing further details.

It comes after it emerged that the President told top commanders last week that he was wary of deploying soldiers outside the airport because he didn’t want a Black Hawk Down-style incident. Eighteen Americans were killed when their helicopters were shot down over Mogadishu in 1993 during the Somali Civil War.

Rescue efforts became increasingly urgent on Tuesday as Spain warned it would have to leave people behind and France said it would stop airlifts on Thursday – five days before the deadline.

The airport has become a relative safe haven but accessing it has proven near impossible due to Taliban checkpoints and chaos among the crowds outside the perimeter.

A military plane takes off from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday

A military plane takes off from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday

A military plane takes off from the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Monday

Washington pulled off its biggest haul of evacuations since the crisis started over the last 24 hours to early Tuesday morning, with 37 military jets evacuating 21,600 people from Kabul. Here families board a C-17 evacuation flight on Monday

Washington pulled off its biggest haul of evacuations since the crisis started over the last 24 hours to early Tuesday morning, with 37 military jets evacuating 21,600 people from Kabul. Here families board a C-17 evacuation flight on Monday

Washington pulled off its biggest haul of evacuations since the crisis started over the last 24 hours to early Tuesday morning, with 37 military jets evacuating 21,600 people from Kabul. Here families board a C-17 evacuation flight on Monday

While Biden and his administration have said the Taliban has promised safe passage to the airport for American citizens, there are reports that Americans are being assaulted as they try to reach Hamid Karzai International.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin admitted over the weekend that American citizens still trapped in Kabul are being beaten by these Islamic militant fighters.

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said negotiations with the Taliban are continuing as the administration looks for additional ways to safely move more Americans and others into the Kabul airport.

‘We are in talks with the Taliban on a daily basis through both political and security channels,’ he said.

After more than a week of evacuations plagued by major obstacles, including Taliban forces and crushing crowds that are making approaching the airport difficult and dangerous, the number of people flown out met – and exceeded – U.S. projections for the first time.  

The Pentagon said it added a fourth U.S. military base, in New Jersey, to three others – in Virginia, Texas and Wisconsin – that are prepared to temporarily house arriving Afghans.

Major General Hank Williams, the Joint Staff deputy director for regional operations, told reporters there are now about 1,200 Afghans at those military bases. The four bases combined are capable of housing up to 25,000 evacuees, Kirby said.

Afghan evacuees continued to arrive at Dulles International Airport outside of Washington on Monday. Exhaustion clouded the faces of many of the adults.

How does it feel to be here, a journalist asked one man. ‘We are safe,’ he answered.

Biden is ready to strike deal with Taliban to pardon Afghan drug lord who has been in US prison for 16 years in exchange for the last American hostage abducted last year but demands proof of life first 

The US could release an Afghan drug lord to the Taliban in exchange for their last American hostage – but only if they provide a confirmation of life.

Drug lord Bashir Noorzai, who is a top figure in the Pashtun tribe which elusive Taliban Supreme Commander Hibatullah Akhundzada belongs, has been held in a federal prison for the last 16 years.

He travelled to the US in 2005 under the pretext of diplomatic talks, but upon arrival he was arrested by the DEA for his role in a global heroin trade.

And now, Newsweek reports that President Biden is prepared to swap Noorzai with the Taliban in exchange for Mark Frerichs, who was the last American to be taken hostage by the group.

Frerichs was taken hostage by the Taliban in January last year by a group believed to be associated with the Haqqani network – who are a militia group positioned on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and who are aligned with the Taliban. 

Speaking to the publication, a government official, who wished to remain anonymous, said: ‘We are eager to explore ways to bring Frerichs back. But these explorations are predicated on receiving a recent proof of life. The bottom line is that any progress moving forward lies in receiving a proof of life.’ 

A swap deal involving Frerichs and Noorzai has been welcomed by Charlene Cakora, who is Frerichs’ sister.

Drug lord Bashir Noorzai (pictured), who is a top figure in the Pashtun tribe which elusive Taliban Supreme Commander Hibatullah Akhundzada belongs, has been held in a federal prison for the last 16 years

Drug lord Bashir Noorzai (pictured), who is a top figure in the Pashtun tribe which elusive Taliban Supreme Commander Hibatullah Akhundzada belongs, has been held in a federal prison for the last 16 years

Drug lord Bashir Noorzai (pictured), who is a top figure in the Pashtun tribe which elusive Taliban Supreme Commander Hibatullah Akhundzada belongs, has been held in a federal prison for the last 16 years

She said in a statement sent to the publication that although she didn’t like the idea of letting Noorzai go, it was worth it to have her brother released.

And she urged President Biden to move quickly to ensure a deal can be struck. 

However, a former senior U.S. official has said that the foundation of any hostage swap is a solid proof of life which is ‘itself is sort of its own art form’. 

The potential hostage swap comes as the chair of the House Intelligence Committee warned that President Biden is ‘unlikely’ to meet his August 31 deadline to evacuate US citizens and their allies from Afghanistan. 

Now, reports suggest the President is considering the possibility of trading Noorzai with the Taliban in for Mark Frerichs, who was the last American hostage taken by the group

Now, reports suggest the President is considering the possibility of trading Noorzai with the Taliban in for Mark Frerichs, who was the last American hostage taken by the group

Now, reports suggest the President is considering the possibility of trading Noorzai with the Taliban in for Mark Frerichs, who was the last American hostage taken by the group

Adam Schiff made the grim prediction after an intelligence briefing Monday evening, as the Taliban rejected a mooted extension to the withdrawal date.

Schiff said a full evacuation was ‘possible’ but ‘very unlikely given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIV’s, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders, women leaders.’

Speaking outside the US Capitol, Schiff continued: ‘I am encouraged to see the numbers of people evacuated, increasing readily to the point where we evacuated 11,000 people in a single day,’ Schiff continued.

‘Nonetheless, given the logistical difficulties of moving people to the airport and the limited number of workarounds, it’s hard for me to see that being fully complete by the end of the month. And I’m certainly of the view that we maintain a military presence as long as it’s necessary to get all U.S. persons out and to meet our moral and ethical obligation to our Afghan partners.’ 

He added: ‘Given the number of Americans who still need to be evacuated, the number of SIVs, the number of others who are members of the Afghan press, civil society leaders women leaders, it’s hard for me to imagine all of that can be accomplished between now and the end of the month,’ he said.

Who is Bashir Noorzai?

Haji Bashir Noorzai is a drug lord and financial backer of the Taliban.

In 2005, he flew from Dubai to the US under the pretext of diplomatic talks.

However, upon his arrival in New York City, he was arrested by the DEA for his role in the establishment of a global heroin trafficking operation – the funds of which had been helping the Taliban.

After a trial, he was sentenced to life in a US federal prison. 

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