US troops have flown into Kabul to help evacuate embassy personnel and other civilians in the Afghan capital, a US official said Saturday, a day after Taliban insurgents captured the country’s second and third largest city.
The Pentagon has said two battalions of Marines and an infantry battalion will arrive in Kabul on Sunday evening, with about 3,000 troops.
“They have arrived, their arrival will take until tomorrow,” the US official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
An infantry brigade combat team will also move to Kuwait from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to act as a rapid response force to security in Kabul if needed, the Pentagon has said.
Britain and several other Western countries are also sending troops as resistance from Afghan government forces crumbles and fears grow that an attack on Kabul could be just days away.
An Afghan government official confirmed Friday that Kandahar, the economic center of the south, is under Taliban control as US-led international forces complete their withdrawal after 20 years of war.
Herat in the west, near the border with Iran, also fell under the hardline Islamist group.
The loss of Kandahar is a heavy blow to the government. It is the heart of the Taliban https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/kandahar-southern-hub-key-control-afghanistan-2021-08-13 – ethnic Pashtun fighters who emerged in 1994 chaos from civil war – and is close to the town of Spin Boldak, one of the two main entry points into Pakistan and a major source of tax revenue.
A US defense official said there were concerns that the Taliban – who had been ousted from power in 2001 after the September 11 attacks on the United States – could attack Kabul within days.
“Kabul is not currently in an imminent threat environment, but it is clear that if you look at what the Taliban have done, you can see that they are trying to isolate Kabul,” said Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
Some embassies have started burning sensitive materials before evacuating, diplomats said.
The US embassy in the Afghan capital informed staff that bins and an incinerator were available to destroy materials, including paper and electronic devices, in order to “reduce the amount of sensitive material on site,” according to a Reuters recommendation.
‘SPIN OUT OF CONTROL’
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned that https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/un-says-evaluating-afghanistan-security-hourly-no-staff-evacuation-2021-08-13 “Afghanistan spiraling out of control” and urged all sides to do more to protect civilians.
“Now is the time to stop the offensive. Now is the time to start serious negotiations. Now is the time to avoid a protracted civil war or the isolation of Afghanistan,” Guterres told reporters in New York.
Many people in the capital were stocking up on rice and other food, as well as first aid, residents said. Visa applications at embassies ran into the tens of thousands, officials said.
Afghan First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said after a security meeting chaired by President Ashraf Ghani that he is proud of the armed forces and that the government would do everything it can to strengthen resistance to the Taliban.
The explosion of fighting has heightened fears of a refugee crisis and a rollback in human rights gains. According to a UN official, some 400,000 civilians have been displaced from their homes this year, 250,000 of them since May.
Of Afghanistan’s major cities, in addition to Kabul, the government still owns Mazar-i-Sharif to the north and Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border to the east.
The speed of the Taliban’s victories has led to recriminations over the US withdrawal, which was negotiated last year under the rule of President Joe Biden’s Republican predecessor, Donald Trump.
Biden said this week he did not regret his decision to go ahead with the withdrawal. Noting that Washington has spent more than $1 trillion and lost thousands of troops in two decades, he called on Afghanistan’s military and leaders to act.
Polls showed most Americans supported Biden’s decision, but Republicans criticized the Democratic president’s handling of the US withdrawal.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell called the situation in Afghanistan “a debacle” but said it was not too late to stop the Taliban from overrunning the capital by providing air and other support to Afghan troops.
(This story was not edited by NewsMadura staff and was generated automatically from a syndicated feed.)