The State Department on Thursday announced that it is drawing down its embassy staff in Afghanistan to a core diplomatic group as the Taliban’s offensive across the country threatens to topple the government in Kabul.
The Department of Defense will temporarily deploy additional personnel to Kabul’s international airport to help facilitate the departure of embassy staff, State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. Price declined to call it an “evacuation.”
“This is not a full evacuation … I think it’s a very important distinction between planning and contingency planning,” Price said.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke Thursday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to coordinate planning.
“As we’ve said all along, the increased tempo of the Taliban military engagements and the resulting increase in violence and instability across Afghanistan is of grave concern,” Price said.
“Accordingly, we are further reducing our civilian footprints in Kabul, in light of the evolving security situation … we expect to draw down to a core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan, in the coming weeks.”
About 3,000 U.S. troops — two Marine infantry battalions and one Army infantry battalion — who are already in the Middle East will deploy to the Kabul airport in the next 24 to 48 hours to help “provide safety and secure movement of the reduction of civilian personnel out of the embassy,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said.