A Taliban spokesman says the United States must complete its evacuation of people from Afghanistan by the August 31 date the Biden administration set for the withdrawal of all American troops.
Addressing a press conference, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said his group would accept no extensions to the deadline. He said life was returning to normal in the country but chaos at the airport remained a problem.
Many Afghans are desperate to flee the Taliban takeover of the country.
The spokesman said the US should stop evacuating skilled Afghans, and warned Western forces against extending the Aug 31 deadline for airlifts out of the country.
The group said Americans were taking “Afghan experts” such as engineers out of the country.
“They have planes, they have the airport, they should get their citizens and contractors out of here,” Mujahid said.
He said he was not aware of any meeting between the Taliban and the CIA, but he did not deny that such a meeting took place.
Earlier in the day, the Washington Post reported that CIA chief William Burns held a secret meeting in Kabul with Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar on Monday.
The meeting, which if confirmed will have been the highest-level encounter between the Taliban and the Biden administration since the group’s return to power, came as efforts to evacuate thousands of people from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan became increasingly urgent.
Burns is one of US President Joe Biden’s most experienced diplomats, while Baradar, who headed the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, is one of the top leaders in the regime that has taken power in Kabul.
A spokesperson for the CIA would not confirm the meeting to AFP, saying that the agency “never discusses the director’s travels”.
The Washington Post, which cited anonymous US sources for the meeting, did not describe the content of the discussions between the Taliban co-founder and the CIA boss.
Separately, speaking about the prospects of peace in an interview with Geo News, he said that it is only possible with punishments handed out to people in line with Sharia law.
Mujahid claimed that “this time, a robust investigation will be carried out prior to awarding any punishments”, in reference to the Taliban’s earlier rule, from 1996-2001, the return of which is feared by Afghan residents.
Sheikh-ul-Hadees Haibatullah Akhunzada is alive, is the emir (leader) of the Taliban and will be an integral part of the new system of governance in Afghanistan, the spokesman said.
Speaking of Panjshir valley, where members of the anti-Taliban National Resistance Front (NRF) are mounting a resistance led by “Lion of Panjshir” Ahmad Massoud, Mujahid said that the Taliban wish to proceed in Afghanistan with peace and reconciliation. “I am 80 percent confident matters in Panjshir can be resolved through dialogue,” he said.
He said that the people of the valley are war-weary and influential people there have sent the Taliban multiple messages, indicating that they do not wish to see any more fighting.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have already begun appointing people to key government posts, Afghan media reported.
According to Pajhwok Afghan News, Najibullah has been appointed as Afghanistan’s intelligence chief, Gul Agha has been appointed as the finance minister, Sadr Ibrahim has been named the acting interior minister, Sakhaullah has been appointed as the acting head of education, Abdul Baqi will be The acting head of higher education, Mullah Shirin will be the new Kabul governor and Hamdullah Nomani has been appointed as Kabul mayor.
The Taliban seized control of the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Sunday, August 15, 2021, after which several key government officials, including Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, fled the country. Later, they announced a general amnesty and sent a message to the international community to work with them.