Conflicts & War

US troops headed to Afghan capital to aid evacuations

Washington, Aug 12 (EFE).- The United States government announced Thursday the dispatch of 3,000 troops to Afghanistan’s capital to facilitate the evacuation of some people working at the US Embassy amid fears that the Taliban could be ready to move against Kabul in a matter of weeks.

“We believe that this is the prudent thing to do given the rapidly deteriorating security situation in and around Kabul,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said.

The 650 US military personnel still in Afghanistan are due to withdraw by the end of this month in accord with President Joe Biden’s decision to terminate the “combat mission” that began with the invasion of October 2001.

Kirby said that Washington intends to stick to that timetable.

But in view of the rapid advance of the Taliban, who have taken a dozen provincial capitals in a week, forces are to be deployed on a “temporary” basis to ensure security at the embassy, aid the evacuation of diplomats and assist in the processing of visas for Afghan nationals who worked for the US forces.

Besides the 3,000 Army soldiers and Marines bound for Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport, another 1,000 Army and Air Forces personnel will be sent to Qatar for SIV (special immigrant visa) processing, Kirby said.

“Sometime within the next week,” he said, an additional 3,500 troops will arrive in Kuwait and prepare for deployment to Kabul as a quick reaction force if the need arises.

US diplomats make up around 1,400 of the 4,200 remaining staff at the embassy, while the rest are local hires.

Non-essential US personnel were evacuated in April and State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday that the additional drawdown would not hamper embassy operations.

“Our embassy remains open. Our diplomatic engagement on the ground will continue,” he said. “This is not abandonment, this is not an evacuation, this is not a wholesale withdrawal. We are in no way abandoning the people of Afghanistan.”

Even so, the news Thursday reminded some of the fall of South Vietnam’s capital, Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) in 1975, when television aired images of people clinging to the rails of helicopters as they took off from the roof of the US Embassy.

Shortly after the Pentagon announcement, the United Kingdom said that it was sending 600 troops to Kabul for the evacuation of some British diplomats and Afghan employees.

“I have authorized the deployment of additional military personnel to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, assist British nationals to leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff who risked their lives serving alongside us,” UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said. EFE

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