As Taliban forces advance on provincial capitals, the State Department will reduce the staff at the U.S Embassy in Kabul. The Pentagon will also send troops to assist in those departures.
There wasn’t any specific event that led President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to execute the plan, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said Thursday afternoon, but rather the overall worsening trend in Afghanistan.
The president and secretary made this decision without any precipitating events in the past few days. It’s a confluence, and I have been repeating this for several weeks: We have been closely monitoring the security situation on ground. It is better to be cautious and watch the trends than to wait until it’s too much.
A U.S. official said that the Taliban’s pressure on major Afghan cities in the last 24 hours was a significant factor in the decision to reduce the embassy staffing and establish a new military mission.
According to a U.S. official, a military analysis showed that the city could be isolated within 30-60 days and captured in 90 days. This timeline was even faster as the Taliban took Herat, Afghanistan’s third largest city. Then, late Thursday, a U.S. official stated that Kandahar (the country’s second-largest) was in danger of falling or had already fallen.
American Embassy in Kabul has asked Americans to immediately evacuate Afghanistan amid concerns that the capital might fall into Taliban hands within weeks.
According to a senior administration official, Biden met with his team Wednesday night to discuss their recommendations. Biden received the recommendations at a Thursday morning meeting with Austin and Jake Sullivan, and he authorized the move forward.
According to the official, the president spoke to Secretary of State Antony Blinken separately Thursday morning to discuss a strategy diplomatic. He also stated that Biden is still engaged in this matter and is keeping close contact with his team regarding the situation.
Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, stated that the Kabul Embassy will continue to be open even though they are reducing their civilian footprint in Afghanistan due to “evolving security circumstances.” He said that they expected to reduce to a core diplomatic presence Afghanistan.
“What this isn’t — this isn’t abandonment. This is not evacuation. Price stated Thursday that this is not a wholesale withdrawal. This is a decrease in our civilian footprint. This is a drawdown in civilian Americans who will in many cases be able perform their important functions anywhere in the world, regardless of whether it’s in the United States, or elsewhere in the region.
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According to a joint press release by the Ministry of Defence and Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office, the United Kingdom will also send 600 paratroopers to Kabul to support British nationals who are leaving the country. A core team has been established at the British Embassy in Kabul to provide consular and visa services to those who need them.
Kirby, a Pentagon official, stated that the Defense Department would send 3,000 troops from three infantry regiments — two Marine and one Army — into Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport in support of the U.S. Embassy personnel being evacuated.