US deploys 3,000 troops to help evacuate Kabul embassy staff as Taliban advance

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WASHINGTON – The Biden administration will deploy 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to facilitate the withdrawal of personnel from the US embassy in Kabul as the Taliban advance rapidly towards the Afghan capital.

The troops, which will include a total of three Marine and Army infantry battalions, will be deployed to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul within 24 to 48 hours, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. during a press briefing on Thursday.

“This is a very narrowly focused mission to protect the orderly reduction of civilian personnel out of Afghanistan,” Kirby said, adding that the Pentagon expects to increase its airlift capacity in the region.

A Taliban fighter stands guard at the entrance to the police headquarters in Ghazni on August 12, 2021, as the Taliban approach the Afghan capital after taking the city of Ghazni.

AFP | Getty Images

Additionally, a US infantry brigade will be positioned in Kuwait in case it is needed in Afghanistan to help secure the airport.

Meanwhile, a joint army and air force unit of 1,000 people will deploy to Qatar to help process special immigrant visas for Afghan nationals who have assisted the troops. United States and NATO during the war.

Kirby said that despite the temporary influx of troops into Afghanistan, the United States expects to completely withdraw all of its troops by August 31.

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The US embassy in Kabul on Thursday again urged Americans to leave Afghanistan immediately, warning that its ability to help citizens is “extremely limited” due to deteriorating security conditions and downsizing.

“In light of the evolving security situation, we plan to reduce our core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday.

Price added that Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani as well as NATO partners about the new troop movement earlier Thursday.

Since President Joe Biden’s decision in April to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have made amazing strides on the battlefield with now nearly two-thirds of the nation under their control.

Militants captured the strategic city of Ghazni on Thursday, bringing their front line within 95 miles of Kabul, a staggering development that comes nearly two weeks before the departure of US coalition and NATO forces.

The Taliban also claim to have captured Kandahar and Herat, Afghanistan’s second and third largest cities. Afghan officials confirmed Thursday evening that the Taliban had captured Kandahar, the 12th out of 34 provincial capital to fall to insurgents, according to an Associated Press report.

Although largely outnumbered by the Afghan army, the Taliban on Wednesday seized three Afghan provincial capitals as well as a local army headquarters in Kunduz, according to AP.

Wednesday’s gains follow a dramatic weekend blitz where the group captured five Afghan provincial capitals.

The Pentagon has previously said the Taliban’s continued offensive across the war-torn country flies in the face of a commitment the group made last year to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government. .

“What we are seeing on the ground is that the Taliban continue to advance and take control of the district and provincial centers, which clearly indicates that they believe that it is possible to obtain governance. by force, by brutality, by violence, by oppression, which is at odds with their previously stated goal of genuinely wanting to participate in a negotiated political solution, “Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.

Afghan security personnel patrol after regaining control of parts of the town of Herat following fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces, on the outskirts of Herat, 640 kilometers (397 miles) to West Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday August 8, 2021.

Hamed Sarfarazi | PA

He added that while the Pentagon is worried about such advances by the Taliban, the Afghan military must now take advantage of the nearly two decades of training by US coalition and NATO forces.

“They have the advantage in numbers, operational structure, air force and modern weaponry and it’s really about having the will and the leadership to use those advantages to their own advantage,” Kirby said.

“The recipe cannot simply be a constant American presence in Afghanistan that never ends,” he added.

At the White House on Tuesday, Biden told reporters he did not regret his decision to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, despite the shocking gains by the Taliban.

“Look, we have spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years, we have trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces,” Biden said.

“Afghan leaders must come together,” the president added. “They have to fight for themselves, to fight for their nation.”

CNBC’s Spencer Kimball contributed to this report from New York.


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