The United States plans to send an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to assist with evacuation as the Taliban advances on Kabul.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said three battalions, one US Army and two Marine, will go to Hamid Karzai International Airport where military transport planes would be waiting.
The Department of Defence is preparing to possibly evacuate the US embassy and US citizens in the capital of Kabul as the Biden administration considers the possibility that capital could fall within 30 days, administration and military officials have said, according to The New York Times.
The Taliban’s unexpectedly fast gains have led to the Defence Department speeding up its plans to get Americans out of Afghanistan.
“These forces are being deployed to support the orderly and safe reduction of civilian personnel at the request of the State Department,” Mr Kirby said, as well as to accelerate the processing of applications for Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan translators and interpreters.
Officials say a possible evacuation would involve the forceful use of US military force to protect people as they’re taken to Hamid Karzai International Airport where military transport planes would be waiting.
Mr Kirby said these new troops will have some defence equipment.
“They have some defence capabilities,” he said. “They will obviously have the capabilities they need to defend themselves.”
Mr Kirby said the mission was “a very narrowly defined” and temporary mission and estimated there would be fewer than 1,000 troops.
“Nobody’s abandoning Afghanistan,” Mr Kirby said. At the same time, he added that the drawdown will continue on schedule for the end of August.
“The drawdown itself is still on track to be complete by August 31st,” he said. “Our job here now is to help facilitate the same movement of civilian personnel out of Afghanistan.”
The Pentagon is also moving 2.000 Marines closer to the air route over western Pakistan, from where it could begin to evacuate the embassy within a day of receiving orders to take action, according to officials.
To prepare for the possibility that the evacuation becomes a battle with the Taliban, thousands of Marines have been started a training exercise that can be changed into an evacuation if that becomes necessary.
A Biden administration official told The New York Times that the Taliban might soon take the economically important city of Mazar-i-Sharif, and added that the fall of that city along with the overtaking of Kandahar, which is on the precipice of collapse, could lead to the end of the Afghan government by September.
Another official said White House staff felt a mix of alarm and resignation at the rapid gains of the Taliban and at the possible dire future for the country. The official said there has been constant video calls this week about the state of the conflict.
Hundreds of Marines are already on the ground of the embassy complex in Kabul and are responsible for evacuating the embassy, which has a staff of 4.000 – including 1.400 Americans.
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