Insurgents urge withdrawal by 31 August deadline while vowing to allow commercial flights into the capital

Taliban hinder evacuation efforts after receiving CIA director in Kabul

photo_camera PHOTO/ LPhot Ben Shread/UK MOD Crown copyright 2021/Handout via REUTERS - Members of the UK Armed Forces participating in the evacuation of personnel from Kabul airport

The Taliban landslide, which almost completely covered Afghanistan in a record 10 days, has triggered an even greater landslide that has already resulted in the largest logistical evacuation operation in history. Since the insurgent group broke into Kabul, more than 60,000 Afghans have managed to flee the country in planes chartered by the United States and its allies, with the prominent intervention of Spain. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of people are still waiting in the vicinity of Kabul's international airport, hoping for a miracle in the face of the growing Taliban suffocation. At least 19 people have lost their lives in the attempt. And a large part of the population scattered across the country will be ostracised.

The fundamentalists will not allow foreign troops in the country after 31 August. This was announced by insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid. If they did, the United States would cross a "red line" that would have "consequences". The radical militia also denounced the flight of skilled workers: "The Americans are taking our experts and we have asked them to stop this process".

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Biden, for his part, is trying to stick to the script and leave the Central Asian country by the deadline, while coming under pressure from the G7. The group organised an extraordinary meeting to try to convince the US to extend the evacuation deadline. A complex undertaking, as begging the Taliban would be a degradation for Washington.

Neither Johnson nor Macron persuaded Biden. The Democrat remarked that, without Taliban cooperation, the evacuation efforts could not be carried out. The US leader also warned that a prolonged presence in Kabul would result in an exponential increase in the likelihood of a Daesh terrorist attack.

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The climate of threat has forced Washington to turn on its machinery. CIA Director William J. Burns travelled to Kabul on Monday with his entourage for an 'in pectore' meeting with Taliban political leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, The Washington Post revealed. After eight years imprisoned in Guant谩namo, Baradar was released from exile by former President Trump to join the negotiating table with the insurgents in Doha; today, he has emerged as the main interlocutor.

The terms of the talks reportedly revolved around a possible extension of the exit period, but the Taliban spokesman categorically denied having reached or reaching a future agreement with the US on this issue. The insurgents flatly reject the proposal and have banned Afghans from moving and staying in the vicinity of the airport. However, they say they will allow commercial flights to pass through after 31 August.

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Meanwhile, Afghanistan has been plunged into chaos as a result of the complete shutdown, which has led to the closure of banks and shops. Women and government collaborators who have not been able to leave the country remain locked in their homes. Arriving at the airfield is an odyssey fraught with risks that most Afghans cannot bear.

The US intelligence visit to Kabul was not the only one from Washington. Two members of Congress made a whirlwind trip to the Afghan capital on Tuesday. Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and Peter Meijer, a Republican from Michigan, both of whom served in Iraq before being elected to office, took the first military flight to Kabul without House approval. There they took an interest in the operation, though they were heavily criticised for distracting rescue teams and taking places away from Afghan exiles. They returned within 24 hours.

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So far, the main figure who will lead the self-styled Islamic Emirate is unknown, although all eyes are on Baradar. Upon their arrival in Kabul, the Taliban revealed their intentions to create an "inclusive" government, however, the battery of unfulfilled promises by the insurgents induces mistrust.

In this context, the Taliban are beginning to reveal the first pieces that will make up the executive. The first appointment was that of Abdul Qayyum Zakir as acting Defence Minister. Detained in Guantanamo, in the same way as Baradar, Zakir became a senior member of the Taliban after leaving the organisation due to an internal dispute. He is presumed to have a close relationship with Ismail Qaani, commander of the Iranian Quds Forces.

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In turn, Hibatullah Akhundzada heads the internal organisation chart of the Islamic militia. According to experts, he is the highest political, religious and military authority, but de facto political power lies with Baradar himself. Be that as it may, the future Taliban government will require political legitimacy from outside to establish itself in power. Although so far no state has recognised them, Taliban leaders are working along these lines and have held several meetings with the Qatari foreign minister, Mutlaq Al Qahtani, and the German and Chinese ambassadors in Kabul. The only opposition is concentrated in the Panjshir Valley.

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