Washington: President Joe Biden has rushed an additional 1,000 US soldiers to Afghanistan for an “orderly and safe drawdown” of American and allied personnel, as the Taliban insurgents moved closer to retaking full control of the war-torn country.
Biden’s authorisation of 5,000 troops in his statement on Saturday included 1,000 who are already on the ground in Afghanistan, according to a defence official. A battalion of 1,000 troops from the 82nd Airborne Division were redirected to Kabul, instead of their original standby position in Kuwait.
The Pentagon had previously announced 3,000 additional troops were on their way, the defence official said.
Biden announced the fresh deployment after he and Vice President Kamala Harris on Saturday held a secure video conference with the national security team to discuss the ongoing efforts to drawdown American civilian footprint in Afghanistan and monitor the evolving security situation.
“Based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military, and intelligence teams, I have authorised the deployment of approximately 5,000 US troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US personnel and other allied personnel and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance, Biden said in a statement.
Biden’s statement came hours before the Taliban on Sunday seized the last major city outside of Kabul held by the country’s central government, cutting off the capital to the east.
The collapse of Jalalabad leaves Afghanistan’s central government in control of just Kabul and six other provincial capitals out of the country’s 34.
Biden formally announced in July that US troops would fully withdraw from Afghanistan by August 31. He has remained steadfast in his decision to withdraw, telling reporters earlier this week that he did not regret it and it was time for Afghans to “fight for themselves.”
The US President once again ruled out any change in his plans to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan and on Saturday said he would not pass the US war in Afghanistan over to a fifth president.
“I was the fourth President to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth,” he said.
He also defended his decision to escalate the US withdrawal from Afghanistan, saying he could not justify an “endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict”.
“Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly USD1 trillion dollars, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in U.S. history.
“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” Biden said in his statement.
Biden said he has ordered armed forces and intelligence community to ensure that US maintains the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.
The President said has also directed the Secretary of State Anthony Blinken to support Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other Afghan leaders as they seek to prevent further bloodshed and pursue a political settlement.
Soon thereafter Secretary of Blinken spoke today with Ghani about developments in Afghanistan.
They discussed the urgency of ongoing diplomatic and political efforts to reduce the violence, State Department Spokesperson Ned Price said.
Blinken also emphasised the United States’ commitment to a strong diplomatic and security relationship with the Government of Afghanistan and our continuing support for the people of Afghanistan, Price said.
Biden in his statement said that Blinken will also engage with key regional stakeholders.
“We have conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha, via our Combatant Commander, that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts US personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong US military response,” said the President.
Biden said he has placed Ambassador Tracey Jacobson in charge of a whole of government effort to process, transport, and relocate Afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other Afghan allies.
Biden, a democrat, pointed out that when he assumed office in January this year, he inherited a deal cut by his Republican predecessor Donald Trump that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021 deadline on US forces.
Shortly before Trump left office, he also drew US forces down to a bare minimum of 2,500.
“Therefore, when I became President, I faced a choice follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our Forces and our allies’ Forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict,” Biden said.
Meanwhile, former president Donald Trump has slammed his successor Biden and accused him of completely failing on the Afghan policy by following incoherent decisions.
The Taliban no longer has fear or respect for America, or America’s power. What a disgrace it will be when the Taliban raises their flag over America’s Embassy in Kabul. This is a complete failure through weakness, incompetence, and total strategic incoherence, Trump said in a statement.
Everyone knew he couldn’t handle the pressure,” Trump said.
He ran out of Afghanistan instead of following the plan our Administration left for him-a plan that protected our people and our property, and ensured the Taliban would never dream of taking our Embassy or providing a base for new attacks against America. The withdrawal would be guided by facts on the ground, Trump said.
After I took out ISIS, I established a credible deterrent. That deterrent is now gone, he said. PTI