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Taliban fighters watch over a checkpoint outside Abbey Gate at the Kabul airport. Photo: Marcus Yam/Los Angeles Times via Getty

Prior to the fall of Kabul, President Biden dismissed the idea that he could trust the Taliban. "Is that a serious question?" he asked. "No, I do not."

Why it matters: He may not trust them, but as his administration has worked to evacuate Americans and Afghans, the entire mission has hinged on cooperation with a militant group that the U.S. spent years fighting.

  • Biden had stressed in recent days that the Taliban were letting U.S. citizens and, less consistently, Afghan allies pass through checkpoints. That's crucial, because the Taliban control the flow of traffic to the airport.
  • He said Thursday night that he had no regrets about allowing the Taliban to control the airport's perimeter because it was in the group's "self-interest" to prevent ISIS-K attacks and facilitate the U.S. evacuations.
  • And CENTCOM Commander Gen. Kenneth McKenzie noted that security coordination with the Taliban will be essential in preventing another attack. Both Biden and McKenzie said there's no evidence of collusion between ISIS-K and the Taliban.

Biden’s cooperation with the Taliban has been a source of some consternation on Capitol Hill, particularly after a Politico report that the U.S. provided the Taliban with a list of names of evacuating Afghans.

  • The move was reportedly intended to facilitate their travel to the airport but could ultimately make them Taliban targets.
  • Asked about the report, Biden said the U.S. did tell the Taliban to let certain groups of Afghans through, but he wasn’t aware of any such lists.

What's next: The U.S. and its allies — most of which have already suspended their evacuations — are relying on the Taliban to continue to allow Afghans and their own citizens to leave the country beyond Aug. 31.

  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the Taliban have provided assurances to that effect, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of the need for diplomacy with the Taliban to ensure they follow through.

Yes, but: Signals from the Taliban have been mixed at best. Spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid lamented the ongoing brain drain on Tuesday and said "we are not in favor of allowing Afghans to leave."

Go deeper: U.S. allies scramble to leave Afghanistan

Go deeper

Updated Oct 16, 2021 - World

Islamic State claims responsibility for deadly bombing in southern Afghanistan

The mosque after the explosion in southern Kandahar province on Oct. 15. Photo: Murteza Khaliqi/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for a massive blast that tore through a crowded Shiite mosque in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar on Friday, killing at least 47 people and injuring dozens more, AP reports.

Why it matters: Friday's attack was the deadliest to strike Afghanistan since the U.S. withdrew its troops from the region and is the second major attack on a Shiite mosque in a week, underscoring the Taliban's growing security threat from other militant groups.

Oct 14, 2021 - World

Pakistan Airlines halts flights to Kabul citing "heavy-handedness" of Taliban

Passengers board a Pakistan International Airlines flight in Kabul on Sept 13. Photo: Aamir Qureshi/AFP via Getty Images

Pakistan International Airlines on Thursday halted flights to Kabul after what it called "heavy-handedness" of Taliban authorities, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: The suspension comes after the Taliban ordered PIA to slash ticket prices, warning that the company's Afghan operations could be blocked if it refused to do so, per Reuters.

Mike Allen, author of AM
20 mins ago - Politics & Policy

GOP senator calls for senility test for aging leaders

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), a physician, told me during an "Axios on HBO" interview that he favors cognition tests for aging leaders of all three branches of government.

Why it matters: Wisdom comes with age. But science also shows that we lose something. And much of the world is now run by old people — including President Biden, 78 ... Speaker Pelosi, 81 ...  Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, 70 ... and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, 79.