US accelerates evacuations with Marine vanguard landing in Kabul

On Friday, the first Marine battalion forces arrived in Kabul to guard American diplomats and thousands more Afghans. The U.S. has increased evacuation flights for some of its diplomats and a lightning Taliban offensive that is increasingly isolating Afghanistan’s capital.

US accelerates evacuations with Marine vanguard landing in Kabul

John Kirby, a Pentagon spokesperson, stated that "elements of a battalion" were currently in Kabul. This was the vanguard of three Marine Corps and Army battalions that America was sending to Kabul by the weekend to assist more Americans and their Afghan counterparts.

Fears that the Taliban would soon move on Kabul, where millions of Afghans live, have increased as the Taliban took four more provincial capitals Friday. Kirby, at a Pentagon briefing, noted that it appeared as though they were trying to isolate Kabul.

Additionally, the Pentagon was moving additional 4,500-5,000 troops to bases in Kuwait and Qatar, with 1,000 going to Qatar. This was to expedite visa processing for Afghan translators who are afraid of retribution by the Taliban for past work with Americans and their families.

The rest -- 3,500 to 4,000 troops of a combat brigade from the 82nd Airborne Division -- were headed for Kuwait. Kirby stated that the combat troops would be part of a reserve force "in case we require even more" than the 3,000 heading to Kabul.

The U.S. temporarily increased troop levels to evacuate Afghanistan highlights the rapid pace at which the Taliban tookover large parts of the country. This is less than three weeks before U.S. troops are set to officially end almost 20 years of combat operations in Afghanistan.

Joe Biden insists on ending the U.S. military mission on August 31. He says that the NATO and American mission launched on October 7, 2001 has done all it could to create a Kabul-based Afghan government that can withstand the Taliban's withdrawal.

Friday's most significant victory was the Taliban taking over the capital of Helmand, where American, British, and other NATO forces fought some the bloodiest battles of the past twenty years. There were hundreds of Western troops killed in the conflict. The fighting often failed to knock out Taliban fighters locally and the Taliban moved back in after a Western unit was rotated out.

Although the State Department stated that the embassy in Kabul would remain partially staffed and operational, Thursday's decision by the U.S. to send thousands of troops to Afghanistan and evacuate significant numbers of staff is a signal of the United States' waning faith in the Afghan government's ability resist the Taliban surge. A full evacuation of the embassy is not something that the Biden administration hasn't ruled out.

Although the United States had already pulled out most of its troops, it had retained approximately 650 troops in Afghanistan to provide diplomatic security and support U.S. security at the airport.

Biden's administration directly warned Taliban officials that the U.S. would react if they attacked Americans during the increased deployments and evacuations.

Americans are setting up a base overseas to house and receive large numbers of Afghan translators as visa applications are being processed. Although the Biden administration has not yet identified the base, it was earlier in discussions with Kuwait and Qatar about temporary relocations.

The U.S. has flown 1,200 Afghans, former American employees and their family members, to Fort Lee, Virginia, as of Thursday.

Ned Price, a spokesperson for the State Department, said that the U.S. will soon have evacuation planes flying daily to Afghanistan for Afghan translators and other people who are able to reach Kabul Airport despite fighting.

Price stated Thursday that the number of Afghans who have been flies out under the visa program will "grow very rapidly in the coming days."

The U.S.-trained Afghan military was becoming less viable. According to a new military assessment, Kabul could be under Taliban pressure in September. If current trends continue, the country could fall within months.

The embassy issued a second warning Saturday, prompting citizens from the United States to evacuate immediately.

Although the latest drawdown will limit the embassy's ability to conduct business, Price said it would still be functional. After Biden's April withdrawal announcement, no non-essential personnel had been removed from the embassy. It was also not clear how many people would remain at the fortified compound. According to the State Department, the embassy had approximately 4,200 employees as of Thursday. However, most of them are Afghan nationals.

Price stated that, in addition to a complete evacuation of the Embassy and its shuttering, other contingency plans were being considered, including the possibility of moving it to an airport.

Britain was also sending 600 troops to Afghanistan to assist its citizens in leaving the country.

According to a source familiar, Canada sent special forces to assist Canadian personnel leaving Kabul. The official spoke under anonymity and was not allowed to speak publicly about the matter. He did not specify how many special forces would go.