WASHINGTON – The Biden administration will deploy 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to facilitate downsizing at the U.S. embassy in Kabul as the Taliban advance rapidly into the Afghan capital.
The troops, which will consist of a total of three infantry battalions from the Marines and the Army, will be stationed at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul within 24 to 48 hours, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said during a press conference Thursday.
“This is a very tightly focused mission to ensure the orderly reduction of civilian personnel from Afghanistan,” said Kirby, adding that the Pentagon expects to increase its air transport capabilities in the region.
A Taliban fighter guarded the entrance to the police headquarters in Ghazni on August 12, 2021, when the Taliban moved closer to the Afghan capital after taking the city of Ghazni.
AFP | Getty Images
In addition, a US infantry brigade will be stationed in Kuwait if it is needed in Afghanistan to secure the airport.
In the meantime, a joint Army and Air Force unit of 1,000 men is being deployed to Qatar to help process special immigrant visas for Afghan nationals who supported US and NATO forces during the war.
Kirby said that despite the temporary influx of troops into Afghanistan, the US expects to fully withdraw all troops by August 31.
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The US embassy in Kabul on Thursday again urged Americans to leave Afghanistan immediately, warning that their ability to help citizens was “extremely limited” due to deteriorating security conditions and downsizing.
“In view of the evolving security situation, we assume that we will fall back on a core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price on Thursday.
Price added that Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had spoken to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and NATO partners about the new troop movement earlier on Thursday.
Since President Joe Biden’s decision in April to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan, the Taliban have made staggering strides on the battlefield, with nearly two-thirds of the nation under their control.
The militants captured the strategically important city of Ghazni on Thursday and brought their front line within 95 miles of Kabul, an astonishing development that comes almost two weeks before US and NATO coalition forces exit.
The Taliban also claim to have captured Kandahar and Herat, Afghanistan’s second and third largest cities. Afghan officials confirmed Thursday night that the Taliban had captured Kandahar, the 12th district, according to a report by The Associated Press.
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Although the Afghan military was vastly outnumbered, the Taliban captured three Afghan provincial capitals and a local army headquarters in Kunduz on Wednesday, according to the AP.
Wednesday’s wins followed a dramatic blitz weekend in which the group captured five provincial capitals in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has previously said that the ongoing Taliban offensive in the war-torn country violates a commitment made by the group last year to open peace talks with the Afghan government.
“What we are seeing on the ground is that the Taliban are advancing and taking control of district and provincial centers, which clearly shows that they believe it is possible to get government through violence, brutality, violence and repression in great contradiction to their previously stated goal of actually participating in a negotiated political solution, “Kirby told reporters on Wednesday.
Afghan security personnel are patrolling after regaining control of parts of the city of Herat after fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces on the outskirts of Herat, 640 kilometers (397 miles) west of Kabul, Afghanistan, on Sunday, August 8, 2021.
Hamed Sarfarazi | AP
He added that while the Pentagon is concerned to see such advances by the Taliban, the Afghan military must now take advantage of nearly two decades of training from US and NATO coalition forces.
“They have the advantage in numbers, operational structure, air force and modern weapons, and it’s really about having the will and leadership to use those advantages for their own benefit,” said Kirby.
“The recipe cannot just be a permanent US presence in Afghanistan that never ends,” he added.
At the White House, Biden told reporters on Tuesday that he had no regrets about his decision to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan, despite the Taliban’s shocking gains.
“Look, we’ve spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years, we’ve trained and equipped over 300,000 Afghan forces with modern equipment,” Biden said.
“Afghan leaders need to come together,” added the president. “You have to fight for yourself, fight for your nation.”
– CNBC’s Spencer Kimball contributed to this report from New York.