CIA Director William J. Burns held a secret meeting on Monday with Taliban leader Abdul Ghani Baradar, in what was described as the highest-level face-to-face encounter between the Taliban and the US since the militants seized the Afghan capital, said officials, according to a report in the Washington Post.

The meeting came amid chaos at Kabul airport ahead of the Aug. 31 deadline to pull out, which is likely to be impossible in view of the turmoil at the airport, which is currently under the control of the US military.

Afghan Taliban fighters
Afghan Taliban fighters stand guard in Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Aug. 16, 2021. (Str/Xinhua/IANS)Str/Xinhua/IANS

However, there is no confirmation from the White House or the CIA so far. US President Joe Biden last week said U.S. troops may stay in Afghanistan beyond the Aug 31 deadline, which the Taliban sources refused to allow and insisted that the Western forces should leave before the deadline.

Details of the meeting weren't immediately available, but the CIA chief's crisis diplomacy comes as the Joe Biden administration is considering whether to extend the evacuation of tens of thousands of people from the Kabul airport beyond the deadline for a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Senior US officials have warned that terrorists from Islamic State's Afghan affiliate could attack the crowds massed outside the airport. Officials also fear the Taliban and their allies, who have not attacked US military personnel during the evacuation process, could change their posture after August 31.

(With inputs from agencies)