Biden Okays Additional Forces to Help Evacuate U.S. Embassy Personnel From Afghanistan

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Taliban forces patrol a street in Herat, Afghanistan on Saturday.
Taliban forces patrol a street in Herat, Afghanistan on Saturday.Credit: Reuters

U.S. President Joe Biden said on Saturday he has approved additional military forces to go to Kabul to help safely draw down the American embassy and remove personnel from Afghanistan.

"Based on the recommendations of our diplomatic, military and intelligence teams, I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 U.S. troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel," Biden said, adding it would also be to evacuate some Afghans going through a special visa program.

A U.S. defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said of the 5,000 Biden announced, 4,000 were already previously announced but about 1,000 were newly approved and would be from the 82nd airborne division. 

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Saturday with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani about the "urgency of ongoing diplomatic and political efforts to reduce the violence," the State Department said in a statement.

Taliban forces entered Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of the northern Afghan province of Balkh, virtually unopposed on Saturday as security forces escaped, provincial officials said.

Earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced a timeline for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of August, pledging to end America's longest war. His predecessor, President Donald Trump, had reached an agreement with the Taliban to pave the way for a U.S. pullout.

Biden's announcement set the latest offensive in motion. The Taliban, who have long controlled large parts of the Afghan countryside, moved quickly to seize provincial capitals, border crossings and other key infrastructure. They are now within 80 kilometers (50 miles) of Kabul.

Tens of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes, with many fearing a return to the Taliban's oppressive rule. The group had previously governed Afghanistan under a harsh version of Islamic law in which women were largely confined to the home.

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