Washington (People's Daily) -- Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed Thursday that US forces will deploy to Afghanistan and other sites in the US Central Command to ensure the safety of American Embassy personnel and to facilitate the departure of Afghans under the special immigrant visa program.
According the Pentagon, US President Joe Biden ordered the reduction of the staff in the US Embassy in Kabul. "We believe that this is the prudent thing to do given the rapidly deteriorating security situation in and around Kabul," Kirby said. The Taliban has advanced around the nation.
Overall, this involves roughly 8,000 US service members. The first movement is of three infantry battalions -- two Marine Corps, one US Army -- to Hamid Karzai International Airport. This will occur within the next three days, Kirby 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 [special immigrant visa] applicants," the press secretary said. These personnel will arrive in Qatar in the next few days. Some may deploy to Afghanistan or to other areas where the Afghans will be processed.
The third movement is to deploy one infantry brigade combat team out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait. They will be a quick reaction force for security in Kabul if needed. "We anticipate those forces will reach Kuwait sometime within the next week," Kirby said.
These troop movements highlight the stunning speed of a Taliban takeover of much of the country, including their capture on Thursday of Kandahar, the second-largest city and the birthplace of the Taliban movement.
The US State Department said the embassy will continue functioning, but Thursday's dramatic decision to bring in thousands of additional US troops is a sign of waning confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to hold off the Taliban surge.
"This is not abandonment. This is not an evacuation. This is not a wholesale withdrawal," US State Department spokesman Ned Price said. "What this is is a reduction in the size of our civilian footprint."
Kirby said the idea is still to complete the drawdown in Afghanistan by the end of August. "This is a temporary mission with a narrow focus," he said. The US had already withdrawn most of its troops, but had kept about 650 troops in Afghanistan to support US diplomatic security, including at the airport.