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Kamis, 12 Agustus 2021

United States sending extra troops back into Afghanistan to help evacuate embassy in Kabul - ABC News

The United States is sending troops back into Afghanistan to help evacuate personnel from the embassy in Kabul, as the Taliban continues its march.

The Islamist group has claimed control over Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city, while Kandahar in the south — the second-largest city and the spiritual home of the group — may have been captured.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said on Thursday (local time) the first deployment would occur in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Staff at the embassy in Kabul will be reduced to a "core diplomatic presence". 

State Department spokesman Ned Price assured the Afghan government the US embassy would continue to operate in Kabul.

"The embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan," Mr Price said. 

Britain said it would deploy around 600 troops to help its nationals and local translators get out.

Taliban fighters ride motorbikes and fly the Taliban flag as they ride into Farah city, a provincial capital
Taliban fighters swept into the provincial capital of Farah, southwest of Kabul, this week.(

AP: Mohammad Asif Khan

)

About 3,500 additional US troops would be sent to the region to be on standby if the situation worsened, as well as 1,000 personnel to Qatar help process Afghans going through a special immigration process.

While it is common for the US military to send in large number of troops to evacuate personnel in combat zones, the reinforcements will fly in just weeks before the departure of the last of the US-led international force that has had a core role in maintaining security in the country.

"We've been evaluating the security situation every day to determine how best to keep those serving at the embassy safe," Mr Price said.

"Accordingly we are further reducing our civilian footprints in Kabul in light of the evolving security situation."

There are thought to be about 1,400 staff remaining at the US embassy in Kabul. Officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the reduction in staff was "significant."

The military mission in Afghanistan is set to end on August 31, and roughly 650 troops remain in the country to protect the airport and embassy.

'We are returning to a dark time'

Taliban spokesperson, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi, said the Herat governor's office had been seized, and government forces were surrendering.

"As you can see, we are inside the Herat police headquarters right now," a Taliban fighter said in a video that Ahmadi shared.

In Kandahar, most parts of the city were under the group's control, but fighting was still going on, a Taliban commander told Reuters.

However, AP has reported Afghan officials as saying that the city was already lost.

A group of Taliban pose for a photo with a wall in the background.
The Taliban says the swift fall of big cities indicates Afghans welcome the group.(

AP: Mohammad Asif Khan

)

A women's rights activist there, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said heavy clashes were underway, and only the city's military bases and airport remained under government control.

She felt certain that restrictions imposed on women by the Taliban when the group ruled the country from 1996-2001 would return.

"We can no longer talk about women's rights. We are returning to a dark time where there is no hope," she said.

Earlier on Thursday, the Taliban captured Ghazni, situated on the Kandahar to Kabul road some 150 kilometres southwest of the capital.

On Wednesday, a US defence official cited US intelligence as saying the Taliban could isolate Kabul in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90.

With phone lines down across much of the country, Reuters was unable to contact government officials to confirm which of the cities under attack remained in government hands.

The spiralling violence and the militants' swift advances prompted the United States and Germany to urge their citizens to leave the country immediately.

ABC/Reuters

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2021-08-12 20:38:40Z
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