According to US media reports, US President Joe Biden agreed on Tuesday to stick to the August 31 timetable for removing American forces from Afghanistan.
The decision came after a meeting between CIA Director William Burns and a senior Taliban commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Kabul on Monday.
President Biden met his national security staff before taking both decisions, sending his intelligence director to Kabul and sticking to the August 31 deadline, according to US media reports.
President Biden requested his security staff for contingency plans at one of these sessions, according to different US media sources, in case he subsequently decides that the US has to stay in Afghanistan longer.
The Taliban, on the other hand, have refused to extend the deadline for US and Nato troops to leave Afghanistan until August 31, complicating preparations for a safe departure of both US and Afghan citizens from the war-torn country.
“We will not extend the deadline for the presence of US troops in Afghanistan,” Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid said in a Tuesday press conference as G7 leaders tried to persuade Mr Biden to keep US troops in Afghanistan to complete the evacuation.
Mr Biden also addressed the airlifts from Kabul and explained his intention to depart Afghanistan at the end of the month during his video conference with the leaders of the world’s major democracies. Mr. Biden gave a seven-minute speech.
According to reports in the US media, the Biden administration was hesitant to extend the deadline because they feared ISIS or Taliban reprisal if they stayed any longer.
The US media reported on the CIA director’s meeting with Mullah Baradar, claiming that since the Taliban seized Kabul on August 15, US officials had “held daily discussions with the Taliban on security matters.”
The media noted that so far Mr. Burns “is the highest-ranking US official to meet in person” with Taliban leadership since the Kabul takeover. They described Mr. Burns as “a seasoned career diplomat, capable of holding complicated discussions” with both government and non-government actors.
According to the reports, some members of President Biden’s national security staff have urged that planes out of Kabul be sped up to finish the evacuation.
“We believe that we have time between now and the 31st to get out any American who wants to get out,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Monday.
However, the media claimed that Britain and France were pressuring Mr. Biden to stay in the nation for a few more days, claiming that doing so would still enable him to fulfil his initial 9/11 departure deadline for US troops.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the meeting as the current G7 president, “is advocating for a unified approach to the Taliban,” CNN reported. “He wants the world’s leading democracies to come up with a plan on how to recognize the government or potentially apply economic sanctions or withhold aid.”