A U.S. Chinook helicopter flies over the city of Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 15, 2021. Taliban fighters entered the outskirts of the Afghan capital on Sunday, further tightening their grip on the country as panicked workers fled government offices and helicopters landed at the U.S. Embassy.
Rahmat Gul | AP
WASHINGTON — The United States will move its embassy compound in Afghanistan to the airport in Kabul, a somber development that follows stunning Taliban advances across the war-weary country.
“Right now the plan that we are putting into effect is to move personnel from the embassy compound in Kabul to a location at the airport to ensure that they can operate safely and securely,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on ABC’s Sunday program “This Week” when asked about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.
The nation’s top diplomat, who declined to elaborate when asked if the embassy would be effectively abandoned, added that a “core diplomatic presence” will now be headquartered at the Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The latest revelation follows President Joe Biden’s order to deploy approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to Kabul to evacuate embassy staff. Meanwhile, the State Department instructed U.S. Embassy personnel on the ground to destroy sensitive information material ahead of their departure.
Britain, Germany and Canada also rushed troops into Kabul to evacuate their embassies.
In recent days, the Taliban made stunning battlefield reversals with now nearly the entirety of the nation under their control.
Despite being vastly outnumbered by the Afghan military, which has long been assisted by U.S. and coalition forces, the Taliban entered Kabul on Sunday.
A Taliban fighter sits inside an Afghan National Army (ANA) vehicle along the roadside in Laghman province on August 15, 2021.
AFP | Getty Images
Last week, the group captured Kandahar and Herat, Afghanistan’s second- and third-largest cities. The group also took the strategic town of Pul-e-Alam, a city that has one of the four main roads to Kabul.
Read more: Afghanistan’s war will spread beyond its borders as Taliban advances, senior negotiator warns
Biden told reporters last week at the White House that he did not regret his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, effectively ending America’s longest war.
“Look, we spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years, we trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces,” Biden said on August 10.
“Afghan leaders have to come together,” the president added. “They’ve got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation.”
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during an event for clean cars and trucks at the White House in Washington, August 5, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
In April, Biden ordered the Pentagon to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, a decision he said was made in lockstep with NATO coalition forces.
The Pentagon’s colossal task of removing servicemembers and equipment out of Afghanistan is nearly complete, with the U.S. military mission slated to end by Aug. 31.
The Pentagon has previously said that the continued Taliban offensive across the country runs against a commitment made last year by the group to engage in peace talks with the Afghan government.
The peace talks, which are hosted in Qatar, have since stalled.
“What we’re seeing on the ground is that the Taliban continues to advance and to assume control of district and provincial centers that clearly indicates that they believe it is possible to gain governance through force, through brutality, through violence, through oppression, which is at great odds with their previously stated goal of actually wanting to participate in a negotiated political solution,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters recently.
He added that while the Pentagon is concerned to see such advances by the Taliban, the Afghan military must now leverage the nearly two decades of training from U.S. and NATO coalition forces.
“They have the advantage in numbers, in operational structure, in air forces and in modern weaponry and it’s really about having the will and the leadership to use those advantages to their own benefit,” Kirby said.
“The recipe can’t be just a constant U.S. presence in Afghanistan that never ends,” he added.