U.S., Other Countries Preparing To Reduce or Evacuate Diplomatic Staff from Afghanistan
Aug. 13, 2021 (EIRNS)—The U.S. State and Defense Departments announced yesterday that the U.S. military will be supporting the drawdown of the U.S. diplomatic presence in Kabul down to a “core diplomatic presence” before the end of August, due to the collapsing security situation. “In order to facilitate this reduction, the Department of Defense will temporarily deploy additional personnel to Hamid Karzai International Airport,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price.
“The embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan,” Price stressed. “The United States will continue to support consular services, and that includes the processing and operations of the Special Immigrant Visa program, and will continue to engage in diplomacy with the Afghan government and the Afghan people.” Those functions include “supporting peace, security, assistance, cooperation on counterterrorism; consular services, as we’ve been talking about, especially in the context of the Special Immigrant Visa program” (for Afghans who worked as translators for the U.S. military).
Minutes after Price finished up at the State Department, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby appeared in the Pentagon briefing room to provide some details on the military deployment. It’ll start with the deployment of three infantry battalions, two Marine and one Army, to the airport in Kabul, all of which are already present in the region. They will be followed by a combined Army-Air Force support element of around 1,000 personnel which will land in Qatar to facilitate the processing of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants. Thirdly, a brigade combat team from the 82nd Airborne Division will deploy to Kuwait and will function as a quick reaction force should things go south in Kabul. All told, about 8,000 troops will be deployed, about 3,000 of whom will go to the airport in Kabul at the outset of the deployment. They will join the 650 that have remained to provide security at the airport and at the U.S. embassy.
Kirby stressed that “these forces are being deployed to support the orderly and safe reduction of civilian personnel at the request of the State Department and to help facilitate an accelerated process of—of working through SIV applicants.” He went on: “This is a temporary mission with a narrow focus.” The goal is to complete the reduction of civilian personnel and the evacuation of SIV applicants by Aug. 31, along with the U.S. military withdrawal. Kirby refused to speculate on what happens after that.
And it’s not just the U.S. which is preparing to evacuate people from Kabul. Several other countries are reported to be planning to pull their diplomatic staff out of Kabul as well, including the U.K., Canada and Turkey. Britain said it would deploy around 600 troops to help its citizens leave while other embassies and aid groups said they too were getting their people out, reported Emirati daily The National. “It’s best to reduce our footprint not just because there’s an increasing threat of violence but also resources,” an official at the Turkish Embassy in Kabul said on Aug. 13. “Medical facilities are under massive pressure. We also are mindful of Covid-19 and testing has almost come to a pause.”