Washington: The Biden administration is deploying several thousands of its troops to the Kabul airport to support the orderly and safe reduction of civilian personnel mainly from its embassy, officials at the Pentagon and the State Department said Thursday.
“We are further reducing our civilian footprint 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. In order to facilitate this reduction, the Department of Defense will temporarily deploy additional personnel to Hamid Karzai International Airport,” State Department Spokesperson Ned Price told reporters at his daily news conference.
Secretary of State Tony Blinken and the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Thursday spoke over phone with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to coordinate the planning, he said.
“The embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan. The United States will continue to support consular services, and that includes the processing and operations of the Special Immigrant Visa Program, and we’ll continue to engage in diplomacy with the Afghan government and the Afghan people. Additionally, we will continue our focus on counterterrorism,” he said.
Giving details of the deployment of US troops to Afghanistan, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that the first movement will consist of three infantry battalions that are currently in the Central Command area of responsibility.
They will move to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul within the next 24 to 48 hours. Two of those battalions are United States Marines and one is a US Army battalion, he said.
The next movement will consist of a joint US Army-Air Force support element of around 1,000 personnel to facilitate the processing of SIV applicants. Initial elements of this movement, of this element, will arrive in Qatar in the coming days, he added.
“The third movement is to alert and to deploy one Infantry Brigade Combat Team out of Fort Bragg to Kuwait, where they will be postured and prepared, if needed, to provide additional security at the airport. We anticipate those forces will reach Kuwait sometime within the next week,” Kirby said.
The US embassy in Kabul has been on ordered departure since April 27, Price said.
“We have been evaluating the security situation every day to determine how best to keep those serving at our embassy safe. This is what we do for every diplomatic post in a challenging security environment,” he said. PTI