The director of the CIA met with the Taliban's top political leader in Kabul amid the ongoing effort to evacuate people fleeing their takeover of Afghanistan, a U.S. official said Tuesday.
William Burns' visit Monday came ahead of a planned meeting among leaders from the Group of Seven nations about the crisis in Afghanistan and a warning from U.N. human rights chief of credible reports of “summary executions” and restrictions on women in areas under Taliban control. That's fueling fears of what their rule might hold a week before U.S. forces are set to withdraw.
Michelle Bachelet urged the Human Rights Council to take “bold and vigorous action” to monitor the rights situation in Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban's stunning takeover, as she sought to ensure that international attention on the country doesn’t wane.
Taliban leaders have promised to restore security and tried to project an image of moderation, but many Afghans are skeptical and are racing to the leave the country, leading to chaos at Kabul's international airport. Amid scattered reports, it has been difficult to determine how widespread abuses might be and whether they reflect that Taliban leaders are saying one thing and doing another, or if fighters on the ground are taking matters into their own hands.
Burns traveled to Kabul on Monday to meet Abdul Ghani Baradar. The details of their discussions weren't immediately known.
The Washington Post first reported Burns’ meeting with Baradar. The U.S. official confirmed the report on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly.
G-7 leaders plan to meet later Tuesday to discuss the burgeoning refugee crisis and the collapse of the Afghan government amid wrangling over whether the full U.S. withdrawal of troops could be extended beyond the end of the month to allow more time to evacuate those desperate to leave.
U.S. administration officials have refused to be pinned down about whether an extension is likely or even possible given that a Taliban spokesman has warned that Aug. 31 is a “red line” and that extending the American presence would “provoke a reaction.”
In the meantime, tragic scenes at the airport have transfixed the world. Afghans poured onto the tarmac last week and some clung to a U.S. military transport plane as it took off, later plunging to their deaths. At least seven people died that day, and another seven died Sunday in a panicked stampede. An Afghan solider was killed Monday in a gunfight.
Additional reporting by The Associated Press.