The U.S. is preparing for a possible evacuation of embassy staff and citizens in Kabul, in the wake of the Trump administration’s surrender to Taliban forces in Afghanistan.
Officials say the capital city could fall to the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban group within 30 days.
The Pentagon is moving thousands of Marines into position to provide support in a possible evacuation of the American Embassy and U.S. citizens in Kabul that could be reminiscent of the fall of Saigon.
Officials say any evacuation will involve a robust use of American military force to move people to Hamid Karzai International Airport to waiting military transport planes and to protect them en route to the departure site.
Three thousand fresh U.S. troops were rushing to Kabul on Friday in a temporary deployment to speed evacuation flights for some American diplomats and thousands of Afghans, as the Taliban pressed a lightning offensive that has captured much of the country and risks isolating Afghanistan’s capital city.
The Pentagon also was moving another 4,500 to 5,000 troops to bases in the Gulf countries of Qatar and Kuwait, including 1,000 to Qatar to speed up visa processing for Afghan translators and others who should fear retribution from the Taliban for their past work with Americans, and their family members.
U.S. forces will deploy to Afghanistan and other sites in U.S. Central Command to ensure safety of American embassy personnel and to facilitate the departure of Afghans under the special immigrant visa program, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said today.
President Joe Biden ordered the reduction of the staff in the U.S. embassy in Kabul. DOD personnel will deploy to ensure their safety.
"We believe that this is the prudent thing to do given the rapidly deteriorating security situation in and around Kabul," Kirby said. The Taliban has advanced around the nation.
The first movement is of three infantry battalions — two Marine Corps, one U.S. Army — to Hamid Karzai International Airport. This will occur within the next three days, Kirby said.
"The next movement will consist of a joint U.S. Army/Air Force support element of around 1,000 personnel to facilitate the processing of SIV [special immigrant visa] applicants," the press secretary said. These personnel will arrive in Qatar in the next few days. Some may deploy to Afghanistan or to other areas where the Afghans will be processed.
The third movement is to deploy one infantry brigade combat team out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait. They will be a quick reaction force for security in Kabul if needed. "We anticipate those forces will reach Kuwait sometime within the next week," Kirby said.
Overall, this involves roughly 8,000 U.S. service members. As in all cases, U.S. service members have the right to self-defense if attacked. The troops will be under the command of Navy Rear Adm. Pete Vasely, the commander of U.S. Forces Afghanistan — Forward in Kabul.
Kirby said officials anticipate the increased need for U.S. airlift and, "and the secretary has already had conversations with the chairman and with Transportation Command about these potential needs so we do fully expect that there’ll be additional military airlift required."
The press secretary said the idea is still to complete the drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of the month.