(WASHINGTON) — The State Department will begin reducing its staff levels at the U.S. embassy in Kabul and the Pentagon will send troops in to help facilitate those departures, as Taliban forces advance on more provincial capitals.
State Department Spokesman Ned Price said that while the embassy in Kabul will remain open, they will be reducing their civilian footprint due to the “evolving security situation.” He added that they expect to draw down to a core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan.
“What this is not — this is not abandonment. This is not an evacuation. This is not the wholesale withdrawal,” Price said Thursday. “What this is, is a reduction in the size of our civilian footprint. This is a drawdown of civilian Americans who will, in many cases, be able to perform their important functions elsewhere, whether that’s in the United States or elsewhere in the region.”
In a briefing at the Pentagon, the Defense Department’s top spokesman announced that it’s sending 3,000 troops from three infantry battalions — two Marine and one Army — to Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport to help out with the removal of American personnel from the U.S. embassy.
They’ll be there “temporarily” and will begin shipping out in the next 24 to 48 hours. These numbers are on top of the 650 already in Kabul protecting the airport and the embassy.
An additional 1,000 personnel will be sent to assist with the processing of Afghans who worked as interpreters, guides and other contractors and applied for Special Immigrant Visas.
Furthermore, a brigade of 3,000 to 3,500 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne will be sent to Kuwait to pre-position in case they are needed further.
Vice President Kamala Harris told reporters that after a meeting with business leaders Thursday afternoon she would leave to “continue the briefings that we’ve been receiving.”
Price said they will continue to relocate qualified Afghans who assisted the American mission, such as interpreters and others who worked for the U.S. government, and flights will ramp up in the coming days.
The U.S. embassy in Kabul has also urged Americans to evacuate Afghanistan immediately, amid fears that the capital could fall into Taliban hands in a matter of weeks.
A military analysis said the city could be isolated in 30 to 60 days and be captured in 90 days, a U.S. official told ABC News, but that timeline seemed even more accelerated Thursday as the Taliban claimed Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest city.
This is a developing news story. Please check back for updates.
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