President Joe Biden announced Saturday that the U.S. would hike the number of troops it’s sending to Afghanistan to aid with the evacuation of the U.S. embassy by another 1,000 after the Taliban made critical gains Saturday, leaving the Western-backed government in Kabul further weakened.
Biden said he decided to send more troops after consulting with military, diplomatic and intelligence teams, and that they will be used to “make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel.”
An additional 1,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division are being sent to Kabul, according to Defense One, while 3,000 U.S. troops are scheduled to arrive this weekend to aid the embassy evacuation, supplementing the fewer than 1,000 troops who remained on the ground in Afghanistan.
All U.S. troops are set to leave Afghanistan by the end of the month, and the Biden administration is said to be planning a full withdrawal from the embassy in Kabul amid concerns the Taliban will soon take control of the Afghan capital.
Troops will also be used to help Afghans who aided the U.S. during its 20-year conflict with insurgents flee the country, and Biden additionally announced Ambassador Tracey Jacobson will be in charge of the effort to relocate Afghans who helped the U.S. military.
If the Taliban interferes with the U.S. withdrawal process, Biden warned there will be “a swift and strong U.S. military response.”
“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” Biden said in a statement. “And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.”
What To Watch For
The Taliban has been seizing cities and territories in Afghanistan faster than expected. U.S. intelligence officials had previously assessed that insurgents could completely isolate Kabul in the next 30 days, with the capital coming fully under Taliban control within 90 days.
The Taliban delivered major blows to the Afghan government on Saturday, taking Mazar-e-Sharif, the country’s fourth-largest city, essentially cementing insurgent control over the northern part of the country, and they also seized the capital of a province just to the northwest of Kabul. The Taliban reportedly is capturing cities with relative ease as government troops and militias surrender with little or no fighting. Taking Mazar-e-Sharif means three of the four largest Afghan cities are now under the control of the Taliban.
Taliban Seize Key Northern City As Insurgents Close In On Kabul (Forbes)
Kabul Could Fall To The Taliban Within 90 Days, U.S. Intelligence Warns (Forbes)
The White House Said To Be Prepping To Fully Withdraw From U.S. Embassy In Afghanistan (Forbes)