Kabul: US strengthens troops at airport | free press

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Washington (AP) – Given the advance of the militant Islamist Taliban in Afghanistan, the US wants to keep embassy staff to a minimum in the coming weeks.

In addition, 3,000 additional soldiers must be stationed to secure the airport in Kabul to support the orderly withdrawal of some of its personnel, the US State Department and Defense said on Thursday. The embassy in Kabul will remain open at its current location, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price said. “We intend to continue our diplomatic work,” Price said.

“It’s not an evacuation. It is not a complete withdrawal,” the spokesperson emphasized. He gave no information on how many people will leave the embassy. They will limit themselves on site to a “nuclear diplomatic presence”. The Taliban had made it very clear that they had no intention of attacking diplomatic institutions, Price said. But one will not trust the words of a group like the Taliban. That is why they are now taking «prudent precautions».

Withdrawal and temporary reinforcement

The US military plans to leave Afghanistan by the end of August. According to reports, only a few hundred soldiers would be left behind – mainly to protect the US embassy. Kabul’s airport has so far been mainly secured by Turkish soldiers as part of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan, but US soldiers are also staying there. The safe operation of the airport – along with medical care – is a precondition for embassies and international representations to stay in the country.

The magnitude of the temporary increase in the US military presence in Kabul is about 3,000 soldiers, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said. It’s about supporting the downsizing of the US embassy staff. The troops should be on site within 24 to 48 hours, he said.

The US military will also move about 1,000 additional soldiers to a base in the emirate of Qatar, Kirby said. In addition, an Airborne Division Task Force will be moved from the US state of North Carolina to Kuwait if further support is needed. The 3,500 to 4,000 soldiers of the so-called 82nd Airborne Association from Fort Bragg should arrive there “next week”. Leaving the country by the end of August is still the plan, Kirby said.

At the time of the decision to withdraw, the US still had about 2,500 soldiers in Afghanistan. By now, the recording is actually more than 95 percent complete. The Bundeswehr and soldiers from other NATO countries have already left Afghanistan. US President Joe Biden defended his withdrawal plans earlier this week and said he did not regret it. Afghans must now “fight for their own state,” he said. Their armed forces are militarily superior to the Taliban, including in troop strength. “But they also have to want to fight.”

Territorial gain for the Taliban

On Thursday, Afghanistan’s third-largest city, Herat, fell to the Taliban. The second largest city, Kandahar, is also fiercely contested. Germany, the US, Britain and other countries have recently called on their citizens to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible due to the significantly deteriorating security situation.

According to the US administration, the international community will not recognize a new Afghan government if it has taken power by force. State Department spokesman Price announced that this “message to the Taliban” would later be expressed in a joint statement with several international partners, including Germany. A violent takeover by the Taliban would isolate Afghanistan internationally, after which aid payments would also be suspended, Price emphasized.

Since the withdrawal of US and NATO forces began in early May, the Taliban have made huge gains in territory. From 1996 until the US-led intervention in 2001, Islamists controlled large parts of Afghanistan.