US says Kabul Embassy staff being moved to airport

Biden administration under intense criticism for underestimating Taliban

CHICAGO, United States (AA) – US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that personnel are being relocated from the US Embassy in Kabul, at one point one of the largest embassies in the world, to the Kabul airport “to ensure they can operate safely and securely,” as Taliban fighters move deeper into the Afghan capital.

President Joe Biden announced on Saturday that an additional 1,000 US troops would join the roughly 4,000 already in Afghanistan to help in the increasingly frantic drawdown of US troops.

During an interview with the ABC television network, Blinken said in order to move the embassy staff to Kabul’s airport “the president sent in a number of forces to make sure that as we continue to draw down our diplomatic presence, that we do it in a safe and orderly fashion. And at the same time, maintain a core diplomatic presence in Kabul.”

He also told CNN: “We have not asked the Taliban for anything.. we’ve told the Taliban that if they interfere with our personnel, with our operations as we’re proceeding with this drawdown, there will be a swift and decisive response.”

Blinken said the US is working round the clock to evacuate Americans from Afghanistan and secure special visa applications for those Afghans who assisted the American military either directly with military operations, or in more ancillary roles, such as with humanitarian and cultural aid.

Canada suspends operations at Kabul embassy

In a separate development, Canada has suspended its operations at the Canadian Embassy in Kabul, citing a situation that is “rapidly evolving and poses serious challenges to our ability to ensure the safety and security of our mission,” according to a statement from Canada’s Foreign Ministry.

Eyewitnesses in Kabul told America’s National Public Radio that there is now a constant drone of “white noise” over Kabul, as helicopters fly overhead, in an effort to get US personnel and Afghans out of the country.

Polls show most Americans support the US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, a process that former Presidents Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and now incumbent President Biden attempted to complete.

Biden administration under intense criticism

But the Biden administration has come under intense criticism in recent days, for apparently underestimating the Taliban, while overestimating the will of the Afghan army to defend their country.

Just a month ago, Biden said it was “highly unlikely” that there was an imminent takeover of the country by the Taliban.

But on Saturday, he once again said he would not pass along an “endless American presence” to another US president.

“One more year, or five more years of US 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.”

US plans in tatters

The original plan to have US military personnel out of the country by the end of August, while leaving a few hundred military members to guard Kabul’s embassy and airport, now appears in tatters.

Ian Bremmer, a political scientist who heads political risk consultancy company Eurasia Group, told CNN on Saturday he would not criticize the Biden administration for wanting to draw down the US troops in Afghanistan, but he criticized the execution of the plan.

“The fact that we have, in the Pentagon, the best scenario planning for military presence in the world, and we have 20-year experience on the ground … and they were clearly caught completely flat-footed, and had no plan in place for the Taliban advancing … it’s unconscionable in my view that the United States is now playing catch up for a decision that was made on our timeline.”

“It’s an execution problem,” Bremmer said, adding: “And anyone who faces this on the ground in Afghanistan, as a consequence of not being prepared, is something this administration has to speak for.”

Bremmer also said the Biden administration should have been working more closely with its United Nations allies – the same allies who joined the US in Afghanistan 20 years ago – in working on a military drawdown. “We should not be leaving by ourselves.”​​​​​​​


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