President Joe Biden authorized thousands more U.S. troops to deploy to Afghanistan on Saturday as the Taliban continued to capture provincial capitals and was said to be closing in on Kabul.
Biden said he’s authorized “approximately 5,000 US troops” to deploy based on “recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams.” The troops will deploy to protect the evacuation of U.S. personnel and Afghan allies, Biden said.
Biden also said he warned the Taliban that “any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts US personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong US military response.”
Biden’s authorization of 5,000 total troops in Afghanistan is an increase of about 1,000 troops from the approximately 1,000 troops that were already deployed in the country at the start of the week and a deployment of 3,000 troops the Pentagon announced on Thursday.
On Thursday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby had confirmed two U.S. Marine Corps infantry battalions and one U.S. Army infantry battalion— a force of about 3,000 U.S. troops — would deploy within the ensuring two days to provide security for U.S. personnel evacuating from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
The additional 1,000 troops consist of the lead battalion of the 82nd Airborne Brigade Combat Team (BCT), which deployed to Kuwait earlier this week to be on standby if the situation in Afghanistan called for additional U.S. troops
The rapid addition of 5,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan comes about two weeks before the U.S. was set to conclude combat operations in the country, on August 31st, and about a month before U.S. forces were set to withdraw entirely from the country, on September 11.
On Saturday, the Taliban captured its 21st of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.
In addition to rapidly capturing the Afghan provincial capitals, the Taliban has also gotten its hands on dozens of military vehicles, including humvees, Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and ScanEagle drones the U.S. either donated or left behind for the Afghan government.
“One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” Biden said in his statement.
Read Biden’s Saturday statement in full below:
Over the past several days I have been in close contact with my national security team to give them direction on how to protect our interests and values as we end our military mission in Afghanistan.
First, based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams, I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 US troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel and other allied personnel and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.
Second, I have ordered our armed forces and our intelligence community to ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.
Third, I have directed the Secretary of State to support President Ghani and other Afghan leaders as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement. Secretary Blinken will also engage with key regional stakeholders.
Fourth, we have conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha, via our Combatant Commander, that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts US personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong US military response.
Fifth, I have placed Ambassador Tracey Jacobson in charge of a whole of government effort to process, transport, and relocate Afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other Afghan allies. Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now at risk. We are working to evacuate thousands of those who helped our cause and their families.
That is what we are going to do. Now let me be clear about how we got here.
America went to Afghanistan 20 years ago to defeat the forces that attacked this country on September 11th. That mission resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden over a decade ago and the degradation of al Qaeda. And yet, 10 years later, when I became President, a small number of US troops still remained on the ground, in harm’s way, with a looming deadline to withdraw them or go back to open combat.
Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in US history. One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.
When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor—which he invited the Taliban to discuss at Camp David on the eve of 9/11 of 2019—that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on US forces. Shortly before he left office, he also drew US forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500. Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice—follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict. I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan—two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth.