Additional US soldiers to support ongoing evacuation of American embassy staff from capital Kabul.
ANKARA (AA) – The US will send an additional 1,000 troops to help evacuate its embassy staff from the Afghan capital, the US Department of State and Department of Defense said Sunday in a joint statement.
“At present, we are completing a series of steps to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of U.S. and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights,” said the statement.
The departments noted that the US has expanded its “security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating these efforts, and will be taking over air traffic control.”
“Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals.
“And we will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks,” the statement stressed.
“For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States. And we will find additional locations for those yet to be screened,” it added.
The Biden administration’s last-minute decision to send additional troops reflected the “extremely grave” state of security in Afghanistan, according to the American press.
The development comes after the Taliban made rapid military advances, taking control of the country as Afghan government forces fled or surrendered.
The Taliban took over the presidential palace in Kabul on Sunday, according to the group’s spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid.
This came following an eventful day which saw minute-to-minute developments, including the Taliban’s entering the besieged capital and the departure of embattled President Ashraf Ghani along with his close aides.
Ghani, who was dubbed “the former president” by the head of Afghanistan’s National Reconciliation Council, Abdullah Abdullah, in a video message, left the country.
“He [Ghani] left Afghanistan in a hard time. God holds him accountable,” Abdullah said in the message in the Persian language.
Following the departure of Ghani, former President Hamid Karzai and veteran politician Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and top peace negotiator Abdullah formed a council with the aim of ensuring a smooth transfer of power.
Defending his decision, Ghani said in a message that he had left Kabul in order to avoid bloodshed.
Mujahid said the Taliban will not accept any transitional setup. Instead, he added, the group wants an immediate transition of power.
A delegation of the Taliban’s military commission is present at the presidential palace to negotiate the transfer of power, he told ABC News.
The Taliban’s consultative council has already announced a general amnesty for Afghan forces and government officials in the case of an unconditional surrender.
US forces’ helicopters meanwhile were seen conducting back and forth flights between the American Embassy and Kabul airport to evacuate US diplomats.
“Kabul looks like a ghost city as I speak. All shops, markets and restaurants are closed. Roads and streets wear a deserted look,” Anis Khan, a Kabul-based journalist, told local broadcaster Geo News.
“The city is in the grip of fear and confusion,” Khan added.