- Pentagon is sending troops back into Afghanistan to help evacuate some personnel from the US embassy amid the Taliban’s surging encroachment on the capital city of Kabul
- Diplomats are weighing how soon they could have to totally evacuate the US embassy, where some 4,000 are employed
- The State Department last week warned US citizens to get out of the war-ravaged nation immediately
- Taliban have now seized control of 12 provincial capitals, two-thirds of the nation
- On Thursday, Taliban fighters captured the nation’s second-largest city Kandahar and third biggest Herat
- By Friday, they had stormed and seized Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province in the south
- Taliban fighters are going door-to-door and forcing young women in captured areas into sex slavery and executing Afghan forces who surrender
The Pentagon is sending 3,000 troops back into Afghanistan to help evacuate personnel from the US embassy amid the Taliban’s surging encroachment on the capital city of Kabul.
Those 3,000 troops, part of three infantry battalions, are in addition to the over 650 US service members still currently stationed in Afghanistan.
Another 3,500 to 4,000 reserve forces will be stationed in Kuwait on standby, and another 1,000 will go to Qatar to help with Special Immigrant Visa processing.
The latest move follows furious criticism of the Biden’s administration troop withdrawal that has allowed the Taliban to run rampant across the country and capture 12 provincial capitals in a week. There are also reports the terrorists are executing Afghan troops the US left to fight.
On Thursday, Taliban fighters had captured Afghanistan’s third largest city, Herat. Hours later, the militant group captured Kandahar, the nation’s second largest city behind Kabul, giving them control of 12 of 34 provincial capitals.
By Friday the insurgents seized Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province in the south, with the Afghanistan government rapidly losing control of the country.
Just three major cities are believed to be under government control, and the terrorists are now in a position to advance on Kabul.
Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Thursday: ‘We believe this is it the prudent thing to do given the rapidly deteriorating security situation in and around Kabul.’
Kirby said the mission is to reduce the civilian personnel presence at the US embassy in Kabul by the end of the month. He said he wouldn’t speculate what the military ‘footprint’ would look like in Afghanistan beyond August 31. However, he said President Biden’s Aug. 31 deadline to withdraw US forces still stands.
Kirby specified the new deployment was part of a ‘narrowly-focused mission of safeguarding’ but refused to say whether the 3,000 troops would be included in that deadline.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the embassy would continue to focus on counterterrorism, furthering peace and security and consular work, especially facilitating Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) for Afghans who worked to help the US military over the past 20 years.
He said those who are leaving are ‘those who might be able to perform functions elsewhere in the world’ or who ‘may not be necessary to perform functions.’
Price refused to classify the clear-out as an ‘evacuation,’ and stressed it’s a withdrawal of civilian personnel.
Price also stressed that US troops were there strictly to help embassy personnel leave the country safely. ‘This is not about re-engaging in military conflict in Afghanistan.’
At the same time, the United Kingdom is sending 600 troops back to Afghanistan to help British nationals to evacuate the nation.
‘We are in no way abandoning the people of Afghanistan. Far from it. We are going to continue doing everything we can,’ he added, when asked what kind of message the Taliban should take from the withdrawal.
Still, with the US drawdown, Afghan interpreters for the US are terrified they may never get their chance to flee as the Taliban put a target on their backs.
James Miervaldis, board chairman of No One Left Behind, a non-profit that works to relocate foreign interpreters for the US, said the organization was disheartened by the escalating situation but had secured a $500,000 private grant to fly as many families out of Afghanistan as they can commercially.
‘We have been trying to avoid this outcome in Afghanistan for eight years – through three presidential administrations, seven congresses, seven secretaries of defense, and five secretaries of state… yet here we are. No One Left Behind and patriotic private citizens will fly out as many SIV recipients as possible. We will keep our moral obligation to our allies.
Earlier, it was reported American negotiators were seeking assurances from the Taliban that the militant group will not go after the US embassy if they overtake Kabul.
The effort, led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the chief American envoy in negotiations with the Taliban, seeks to avoid an evacuation of the embassy’s nearly 4,000 employees, including, 1,400 Americans, two US officials told the New York Times.
The State Department last week warned US citizens to get out of the war-ravaged nation immediately.
Khalilzad arrived in Qatar on Tuesday to warn Taliban officials that their government would not be recognized.
Pleas to leave the embassy untouched seem to go against the president’s public assurances that he has still has faith Afghan forces can hold on to Kabul.
Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan‘s capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90, a U.S. defense official told Reuters citing intelligence reports as the resurgent militants made more advances across the country.
‘But it is not a foregone conclusion,’ the official said, adding that Afghan Security Forces could reverse course by surging their resistance.
‘They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation. The United States will insist to continue the commitments … they’ve got to want to fight. I think there’s still a possibility,’ Biden said on Monday of the Afghan military.
‘I do not regret my decision’ to withdraw, the president continued.
The Biden administration has faced intensifying pressure as swelling Taliban advances draw more public condemnations of the decision to withdraw.
‘All of this is a result of President Biden believing he knows more than his military advisors. President Biden apparently learned nothing from Iraq. When it comes to Afghanistan, the worst is yet to come.’ Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., wrote on Twitter Thursday.
‘A vacuum is being created in Afghanistan for the reemergence of ISIS and al-Qaeda who will attack U.S. interests. America is perceived as an unreliable ally throughout the world. Russia, Iran, and China will become stronger in the region,’ he continued.
Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., said in a statement Biden is ‘completely detached from reality.’
‘Instead of devising and implementing a strategy to responsibly withdraw our troops and ensure that Aghanistan never again becomes a safe harbor for terrorists, President Biden set an entirely arbitrary deadline.’
‘Because of the president’s disastrous decision, security within Afghanistan has collapsed to the point where the Department of State is evacuating embassy personnel from the country and the Department of Defense is deploying some 3,000 troops to assist in the evacuation process. We are now seeing the world’s most powerful country pleading with Taliban terrorists not to attack American citizens or murder the Afghans who had worked toward a free and democratic future.’
Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., a notorious hawk who has long been opposed to leaving Afghanistan, called the withdrawal an ‘unconditional surrender.’
‘America’s enemies know that the slogan “ending endless war” actually means unconditional surrender. That is what we are seeing in Afghanistan today. American weakness is dangerously provocative,’ Cheney wrote on Twitter.
U.S. warplanes have launched strikes in support of government troops in recent days but the Pentagon has yet to say whether they will continue to offer air support once Biden’s withdrawal deadline has passed.
The recent onslaught represents a stunning collapse of Afghan forces and renews questions about where the over $830 billion spent by the US Defense Department on fighting, training those troops, and reconstruction efforts went – especially as Taliban fighters ride on American-made Humvees and pickup trucks with M-16s slung across their shoulders.
The insurgents have no air force and are outnumbered by U.S.-trained Afghan defense forces, but they have captured territory with stunning speed. The Taliban wants to defeat the U.S-backed government and reimpose strict Islamic law.
In just the latest warning of atrocities being perpetrated by jihadist fighters in areas they have seized, the US now claims that Taliban fighters are executing Afghan troops who surrender.
‘We’re hearing additional reports of Taliban executions of surrendering Afghan troops,’ the US embassy in Kabul tweeted on Thursday. ‘Deeply disturbing & could constitute war crimes.’
Taliban fighters are also going door-to-door and forcibly marrying girls as young as 12 and forcing them into sex slavery as they seize vast swathes of the Afghanistan from government forces.
Jihadist commanders have ordered imams in areas they have captured to bring them lists of unmarried women aged from 12 to 45 for their soldiers to marry because they view them as ‘qhanimat’ or ‘spoils of war’ – to be divided up among the victors.
Fighters have then been going door-to-door to claim their ‘prizes’, even looking through the wardrobes of families to establish the ages of girls before forcing them into a life of sexual servitude.
Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki came under fire for her overly-diplomatic attitude toward the brutal militant group.
‘The Taliban also has to make an assessment about what they want their role to be in the international community,’ she said in an effort to nudge them to the negotiating table.
In an attempt to stop the bloodletting, Afghan diplomats in Qatar said they had approached the Taliban with a deal today that would see the group included in a national unity government in return for halting the fighting.
But such talks have been stalled for years over Taliban demands to turn the country into an Islamic emirate – and there is little reason to believe they will have softened that stance after their battlefield triumphs.