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Taliban close to capturing US Embassy; 3,000 troops deploying to evacuate it

U.S. Forces Afghanistan service members maintain security in Kabul, Afghanistan. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Catherine Carroll/Released)
August 12, 2021

On Thursday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirmed two U.S. Marine Corps infantry battalions and one U.S. Army infantry battalion— a force of about 3,000 U.S. troops — will deploy to provide security as the U.S. Embassy in Kabul cuts its civilian personnel amid rapid Taliban territorial gains across Afghanistan.

Kirby said the three infantry battalions will move to Hamid Karzai Airport “within the next 24 to 48 hours.”

Kirby said a second joint Army-Air Force support element of around 1,000 personnel will begin to arrive in Qatar in the coming days to help facilitate the processing of special immigrant visas (SIVs) for Afghan individuals who assisted the U.S. and coalition forces throughout the 20-year mission in Afghanistan.

A third Infantry Brigade Combat Team (BCT) based out of Fort Bragg will also deploy to Kuwait “where they will be postured and prepared, if needed, to provide additional security at the airport.” Kirby said the BCT will arrive in Kuwait sometime next week.

“I want to stress that these forces are being deployed to support the orderly and safe reduction of civilian personnel at the request of the State Department and to facilitate the accelerated process of working through SIV applicants,” Kirby said.

Kirby’s announcement came hours after multiple outlets began reporting on Thursday that the U.S. Embassy in Kabul was preparing to send staff away.

The New York Times reported, citing Biden administration and military officials, reported thousands of U.S. Marines would begin preparing to evacuate the Kabul embassy. The outlet reported U.S. officials believe the U.S.-backed Afghan government is at risk of collapsing within 30 days.

The New York Times, citing two more U.S. officials, reported the U.S. is trying to get assurances from the Taliban that they will not attack the U.S. Embassy if they overrun the Afghan capital.

The Associated Press also reported, based on comments from a U.S. official, that the U.S. is sending additional troops into the country to help evacuate some embassy personnel.

Reuters reported, according to three U.S. officials, that the State Department is expected to announce the relocation of a “significant” number of its Kabul embassy employees amid rapid Taliban territorial gains in Afghanistan.

On Thursday, the State Department tweeted, “.@StateDeptSpox: We expect to drawdown to a core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan in the coming weeks. The U.S. will continue the processing and operations of the Special Immigrant Visa program and will continue to engage in diplomacy with the Afghan government and people.”

“.@StateDeptSpox: We plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan. The U.S. will continue to support consular services, including the processing & operations of the Special Immigrant Visa program and will continue to engage in diplomacy with the Afghan government & people,” the State Department added.

Earlier on Thursday, the U.S. Embassy issued an official advisory, telling Americans in Afghanistan to leave the country immediately through a commercial airline flight.

“If you cannot afford to purchase an airline ticket at this time, please contact the U.S. Embassy at [email protected] for information regarding a repatriation loan,” the Embassy said. “If you are a U.S. citizen and delaying your departure while you await an immigrant visa for a spouse or minor child, please contact us immediately. Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul.”

The advisory is the second time in less than a week that the U.S. Embassy has told Americans to find a way out of the country. The embassy issued a similar warning on Saturday, Aug. 7.

Within the last week, the Taliban has seized nine separate provincial capitals, out of the 34 total throughout Afghanistan. On Thursday,

Asked on Tuesday if his plans to draw down U.S. forces from Afghanistan had changed in the wake of new Taliban gains, Biden said, “No. Look, we spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces. And Afghan leaders have to come together. We lost thousands — lost to death and injury — thousands of American personnel. They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.”

Biden said the U.S. would continue to provide air support and food and equipment to the Afghan military “but they’ve got to want to fight.”

“I’m getting daily briefings, I think there’s still a possibility,” Biden added. “You have a significant new Secretary of Defense — our equivalent of a Secretary of Defense in Afghanistan, Bismillah Khan, who is a serious fighter. I think they’re beginning to realize they’ve got to come together politically at the top and — but we’re going to continue to keep our commitment. But I do not regret my decision.”

Reuters reported on Wednesday that a U.S. intelligence report warned the Afghan capital city of Kabul could ll within the next 90 days, amid the rapid Taliban territorial gains.

A mass evacuation at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul could present one of the most significant shows of concern from President Joe Biden’s administration about the security situation in the country and whether the U.S.-backed Afghan government can hold out against Taliban advances.

Currently, about 1,400 State Department staff are stationed at the Kabul embassy.