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CIA Chief Visits Pakistan, India to Discuss Afghanistan

In this photo released by Inter Services Public Relations, visiting CIA Director William Burns, left, meets with Pakistan's Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Sept. 9, 2021.
In this photo released by Inter Services Public Relations, visiting CIA Director William Burns, left, meets with Pakistan's Army Chief Gen. Qamar Javed Bajwa, in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, Sept. 9, 2021.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency Director Willam Burns flew to India and Pakistan this week to discuss the situation in Afghanistan and the region as well as the way forward.

In Islamabad Wednesday, Burns met with the head of the Pakistani army, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, along with Pakistan’s intelligence chief, Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed.

“It was reiterated that Pakistan remains committed to cooperate with its international partners for peace in the region and ensuring a stable and prosperous future for Afghan people,” said a press release issued by the military’s public relations wing.

The messy and often chaotic process of evacuating foreigners and at-risk Afghans from Afghanistan after the withdrawal of foreign forces also came under discussion, with Burns expressing appreciation for “Pakistan's role in [the] Afghan situation including successful evacuation operations,” said the release.

Pakistan has worked with multiple countries, including several in Europe, to help hundreds of people, many of them Afghans considered to be at-risk under a Taliban government, to leave Afghanistan through its land borders, accommodating them with either visas on arrival or other transit documents.

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The Pakistani embassy in Kabul has also issued hundreds of visas to Afghans upon requests from embassies, media organizations and other non-government organizations.

Burns’ visit to New Delhi Tuesday followed a trip last month to Kabul. U.S. officials say he met with Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's top political leader. Reports said the talks came amid negotiations on evacuating people from Afghanistan.

Burns’ India trip also coincided with the visit of Russian intelligence chief Nikolai Patrushev. Last week, British intelligence chief Richard Moore traveled to India.

All three spy chiefs met with Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval, among others, to discuss security concerns linked to the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, according to Indian media reports.

In his meetings with the Indians, Burns discussed the possibility of developing a joint strategy on Afghanistan, a senior source in the Indian government told VOA on condition of anonymity since he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Their discussion, according to the official, included regional response to the Taliban takeover, focusing on China.

China has welcomed the announcement of an interim cabinet by the Taliban, calling it a “necessary step to restore order” according to the French news agency.

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The country also wants the Taliban to “unite with all ethnic groups and factions, build a broad and inclusive political structure, pursue moderate and prudent domestic and foreign policies,” according to Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian in his weekly press conference Thursday. He said the sentiment was shared by the foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighbors in a virtual conference Wednesday led by Pakistan.

He also said everyone in the meeting believed that “the United States and its allies are the culprits of the Afghan issue” and are “obligated more than any other country to provide economic, livelihood and humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.”

China has pledged to provide around $30 million of aid to Afghanistan to deal with its humanitarian crisis including its first batch of three million doses of coronavirus vaccine.