The latest on Afghanistan as US troop withdrawal deadline looms

By Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Melissa Mahtani, Mike Hayes and Veronica Rocha, CNN

Updated 8:08 p.m. ET, August 24, 2021
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8:48 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

CIA director met with top Taliban leader in Kabul on Monday

From CNN's Veronica Stracqualursi

CIA Director William Burns and Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar.
CIA Director William Burns and Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar. (Pool/AFP/Getty Images)

CIA Director William J. Burns met face-to-face with the top Taliban leader in Kabul on Monday, according to two US officials, as the US continues airlifting American citizens and its Afghan allies out of Afghanistan by a looming Aug. 31 deadline.

The Biden administration has been in regular contact with Taliban officials throughout the course of the evacuation process, both on the ground in Afghanistan and in Doha, Qatar.

But the covert meeting, first reported Tuesday by The Washington Post, between Burns and Taliban co-founder and deputy leader Abdul Ghani Baradar amounts to the highest-level direct exchange of views since the militant group took control of the capital, a US official briefed on the matter told CNN.

The meeting also underscores the view inside the administration that they need a clearer understanding of where the Taliban stands on several issues as the clock ticks towards the Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw troops from the country, the official said.

The US official told CNN that the meeting occurred at President Biden's direction, which reflects the view inside the administration that Burns is the most seasoned and one of the most trusted veteran diplomats on Biden's team.

Another official called the meeting "an exchange of views on what needs to happen to be done" by August 31.

The CIA declined to comment to CNN about the meeting.

CNN has reached out to the White House for comment.

Some more background: Baradar and then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo were among the witnesses for the US and Taliban's signing of an historic agreement last year, which had set in motion the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Former President Trump and Baradar spoke over the phone shortly after the deal was signed.

After the Taliban retook control of Kabul, Baradar, who heads the group's political committee, had returned to Afghanistan last week after having been out of the country for 20 years.

CNN's Betsy Klein and Michael Callahan contributed to this report.

8:27 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

US military evacuates 12,700 from Afghanistan in 24 hours — another daily record 

The Biden administration announced another set of Afghanistan evacuation numbers in the last 24-hour period from 3:00 a.m. ET Monday to 3:00 a.m. ET Tuesday.

More than 21,000 people were evacuated from the Kabul airport in total, per a White House official:

  • 37 US military flights carried 12,700 evacuees
  • 57 coalition flights carried 8,900 people

That brings the total to 58,700 evacuated since Aug. 14, and 63,900 people evacuated since the end of July.

The 12,700 number is the largest number evacuated on US military flights in a 24-hour period to date, far surpassing the administration’s target of 5,000 to 9,000 daily evacuations on those flights.

The US evacuated 10,400 people on US military flights in the previous 24-hour period.

8:17 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Biden will speak about Afghanistan after G7 meeting today

From CNN's Jason Hoffman

President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room on the continuing situation in Afghanistan and the developments of Hurricane Henri at the White House on August 22 in Washington, DC. 
President Joe Biden speaks in the Roosevelt Room on the continuing situation in Afghanistan and the developments of Hurricane Henri at the White House on August 22 in Washington, DC.  (Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

US President Biden will speak about Afghanistan at 12 p.m. ET Tuesday from the White House.

According to the White House, Biden will talk about the US' "ongoing efforts in Afghanistan to evacuate American citizens, SIV applicants and their families, and other vulnerable Afghans, and his meeting with fellow G7 leaders on how our nations can come together in support of the Afghan people."

Biden on Tuesday morning is also expected to meet with his national security team to hear intelligence, security and diplomatic updates on the evolving situation in Afghanistan.

Following that meeting, the President will join a virtual gathering with top European allies, known as the Group of Seven, to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Tuesday’s G7 call is set for 9:30 a.m. ET.

8:13 a.m. ET, August 24, 2021

Biden will face pressure from G7 to extend Afghanistan withdrawal deadline

From CNN's Kevin Liptak and Barbara Starr

US President Joe Biden, sitting between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, participates in a meeting at the G7 in Carbis Bay near Cornwall, England, on June 11.
US President Joe Biden, sitting between UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, participates in a meeting at the G7 in Carbis Bay near Cornwall, England, on June 11. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

Leaders from the top foreign allies of the United States are planning to press President Joe Biden to extend the deadline for US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan during a Tuesday morning meeting, officials familiar with the matter said.

The virtual gathering of the Group of Seven will be the first international forum for Biden to speak collectively with top European allies about the crisis in Afghanistan, which has caused anger and anxiety in foreign capitals over its chaotic execution.

Ahead of the talks, American and western officials were discussing the expected pressure from other leaders on Biden to maintain troops in Kabul past the Aug. 31 deadline.

Biden has not publicly committed to such a move, worrying some allies who fear there won't be enough time to get their citizens and Afghan allies who assisted in the war effort out of the country.

But the administration must decide on Tuesday whether it will try to extend the evacuation mission in Afghanistan beyond Aug. 31 according to a defense official directly familiar with the discussions.

Read more here.