US-Taliban talks on during countdown to US withdrawaltext_fields
Washington: While the world is watching events unfolding in Afghanistan with most parties cut of from the Taliban, there is one most unlikely candidate in touch with the militant outfit: the US. America has already been at the receiving end of blame for its exit, seen by most countries as abrupt, from Afghan soil, although US president Joe Biden still justifies its stand and vows to abide by it.
However, in view of the large number of people stuck inside Afghan with a still precarious security situation with significant US personnel and interests involved, the US is engaged in talks with the Taliban on a daily basis. Conversely, the Taliban is also seemingly banking on US resources to see that those who want to leave the country get the required logistics to leave and the Taliban itself gets the breather to go about government-making efforts.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan confirmed that the US is engaging with the Taliban on a daily basis even as the US is poised to make a total exist by the declared deadline of August 31.
"We are in talks with the Taliban on a daily basis through both political and security channels," he said when asked about talks with the Taliban over the extension issue. "I'm not going to get into the details of those discussions here to protect those discussions, which are covering a wide range of issues."
However, in the background of the challenge of accomplishing both the US's own withdrawal and facilitating the safe exit of other nationalities, President Joe Biden is reportedly mulling extension of the ongoing evacuation beyond the end-August deadline, as reported by Xinhua news agency on Tuesday.
But Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, in an interview with Sky News ruled out agreeing with such an extension.
At a White House briefing on Monday, Sullivan told reporters that the US has been in discussions with allies as well as with the Taliban on the evacuation issues.
Sullivan added that the US is consulting the Taliban "on every aspect of what's happening in Kabul right now" and would continue those conversations.
"As the president has said before, we believe that we have time between now and the 31st to get out any American that wants to get out," he said, while noting "the president will ultimately make his decision about the precise shape and scope of this operation."
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said later on Monday that the issue of Kabul airport, which holds the key for the evacuation operation, was also discussed with the Taliban.
"There is actually an agreement between and among all these actors, of course between the US and our partners and allies, but also with the Taliban, that all of our interests would be served with a functioning airport," he told reporters during a daily briefing.
Media reports also suggest that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson would also press Biden to extend the August 31 deadline using the occasion of the virtual summit of Group of Seven (G7) on Tuesday.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian also concurred that additional time is needed to complete the evacuation.
Sullivan said the US and coalition aircraft had evacuated over 16,000 people in the last 24 hours.