Pentagon to send additional troops to Hamid Karzai International Airport as more staffers leave Afghanistan.
WASHINGTON (AA) – The US announced on Thursday it is further reducing staff at its Embassy in Kabul as the Taliban seize additional territory from government forces.
State Department spokesman Ned Price said the US would be cutting down “to a core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan” at the embassy within the coming weeks and the Pentagon will send additional troops to beef up security at Hamid Karzai International Airport as embassy staffers leave the country.
“Let me be very clear about this: the embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan,” Price told reporters. “The United States will continue to support consular services and that includes the processing and operations of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, and we’ll continue to engage in diplomacy with the Afghan government.”
Price declined to disclose how many staffers are being relocated but maintained the US is focused “on increasing the tempo of our relocation operations” even as it reduces its diplomatic staff.
So far, more than 1,200 Afghans have been brought to the US and daily flights carrying those who aided the US and their families will begin landing in the country in the “coming days,” said Price.
The Taliban took control of the Afghan National Army’s 217th Pamir Corps headquarters and airport in the strategically important northern Afghanistan province of Kunduz earlier Thursday, forcing soldiers to flee, a government official confirmed.
The hardline group seized all of the facility’s weapons and ammunition and separately took Ghazni in central Afghanistan from government forces, making it the tenth provincial capital to fall to them.
Ghazni lies just 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Kabul.
Meanwhile, the Afghan government Defense Ministry claimed to have killed 326 Taliban fighters in the last 24 hours in ground and air offensives against the insurgents.
Meanwhile in Qatar, representatives from the UN, China, Uzbekistan, Pakistan, the UK and EU, Germany, India, Norway, Tajikistan, Turkey and Turkmenistan were holding talks in Doha aimed at forging consensus on pressing for a cease-fire and reduction in violence, and “not to recognize any force that seeks to take control of Afghanistan at the barrel of a gun,” said Price.
A joint statement was expected to be announced later Thursday.