August 14, 2021 – 11:10
The first group of thousands of US troops has arrived in Afghanistan to assist in the evacuation of US Embassy staff and to secure the airport as Taliban militants approach Kabul.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said most of the 3,000 additional troops would arrive in Afghanistan by Aug. 15 and “be able to move thousands of people a day” from Afghanistan.
US troops are arriving in Afghanistan as the Taliban offensive has accelerated in recent days, with the Taliban gaining control of Herat in the north and Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.
On August 13, insurgents also took control of the provincial capitals of Zabul and Uruzgan in the south, while the capital of the western province of Ghore has fallen to the Taliban.
Also, the city of Pul-e Alam is under the control of Taliban forces, just days after militants took control of the nearby city of Ghazni. Roads leading to Kabul pass through both of these cities.
With the fall of Kandahar – Afghanistan ‘s second largest city – and Herat – Afghanistan’ s third largest city – fears have risen that an attack on Kabul will occur in the coming days.
Kirby acknowledged that Taliban fighters appeared to be trying to isolate the city, but said the Taliban capital was not an “environment under imminent threat.”
The Taliban’s quick offensive came as US-led international troops are withdrawing from the country and will complete the process on August 31. The deadline for troop withdrawals was set after U.S. President Joe Biden announced in April that he was ending his state’s involvement in the nearly 20-year war.
Biden, who spoke to his national security team on Aug. 13 about the situation in Afghanistan, is facing criticism, mostly from Republicans in Congress, who have said withdrawing from Afghanistan is wrong and a poorly planned move.
Senate opposition leader Republican Mitch McConnell said Aug. 13 that the United States should launch airstrikes against the Taliban and provide support to Afghan forces.
“It is not too late to prevent the Taliban from taking Kabul,” McConnell said in a statement.
“The administration must move quickly and stop the Taliban from advancing through airstrikes, providing critical support to the Afghan forces defending the capital and preventing the city from falling,” he added.
If the Biden administration does not do so, according to McConnell, the threat to US security will increase and “the humanitarian cost to innocent Afghans will be catastrophic.”
Biden has backed his decision to withdraw troops, saying the United States has long achieved its goal of defeating al-Qaeda in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, and has rejected the view that Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is “inevitable”.
More than 300,000 Afghan-trained Afghan troops “must fight for themselves, fight for their country,” Biden said earlier in the week.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on August 13 expressed concern about the situation and called on the Taliban to halt the offensive and “negotiate”.
“The message from the international community to those at war must be clear: taking power through military force is a losing position. “It will only prolong the civil war or completely isolate Afghanistan.”
Guterres also said he was concerned about reports of ill-treatment of women in Taliban-controlled areas.
“It is particularly appalling to see reports that the rights of hard-working Afghan women and girls are being taken away,” Guterres said. / rel