The US State Department is cutting staff at its Kabul embassy down to a “core diplomatic presence,” as the Taliban closes in on the Afghan capital. Meanwhile, American citizens in Afghanistan have been urged to flee the country.
Speaking at a briefing in Washington on Thursday, State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the US will reduce its staff numbers in Afghanistan down to a “core diplomatic presence” in Kabul.
Hours earlier, the embassy in Kabul warned all Americans remaining in Afghanistan to leave “immediately,” offering them assistance in purchasing plane tickets and securing visas for family members if necessary.
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US embassy calls on all American citizens to leave Afghanistan IMMEDIATELY, right after Taliban claims to capture 2nd largest city
Two US officials also told Reuters that a “significant” number of Americans would be evacuated from the embassy, with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby later telling the media that 3,000 US troops would be sent to the embassy and to Kabul airport to aid with the evacuation. Despite the reinsertion of thousands of troops, Kirby insisted that the deployment did not represent a reversal of the American withdrawal, but was intended to get US embassy personnel securely out of the country.
Amid the apparent scramble to get Americans out of the country, Price insisted that “our embassy remains open and our diplomatic mission will endure.”
However, US diplomacy has apparently fallen on deaf ears in Afghanistan since American troops began their withdrawal from the country in May. Despite ongoing US-supported peace talks in Qatar, and appeals from the White House, the Taliban’s blitzkrieg campaign to retake control of Afghanistan continues unabated.
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Taliban claims capture of Afghanistan’s 2nd-largest city Kandahar as govt forces reportedly withdraw (VIDEOS)
Shortly before Price’s briefing, the militants claimed control of Kandahar, the country’s second-largest city. Earlier on Thursday they took control of Ghazni, 150km (95 miles) from the capital, and around the time of the briefing they reportedly seized Herat, Afghanistan’s third-largest urban center. If reports of the Taliban’s success at Kandahar and Herat are true, the group now controls 12 Afghan provincial capitals, and more than two-thirds of Afghanistan’s territory.
Without US support, Afghanistan’s military has struggled to counter the Taliban threat. Troops stationed near the country’s borders have been driven out into neighboring countries, and earlier on Thursday, the US embassy in Kabul reported that surrendering Afghan troops have been executed and their military and civilian leaders unlawfully detained by Taliban forces.
The US embassy in Kabul described the alleged executions as “deeply disturbing,” adding that they “could constitute war crimes.”
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