Biden holds video conference with security team to discuss Afghanistan drawdown

President BidenJoe BidenRand Paul calls for Fauci's firing over 'lack of judgment' Dems look to keep tax on billionaires in spending bill Six big off-year elections you might be missing MORE on Saturday held a video conference with his security team to discuss the administration’s ongoing efforts to draw down the U.S. presence in Afghanistan, which is facing a worsening security situation as the Taliban inch closer toward overtaking the country. 

A White House official said Saturday that President Biden and Vice President Harris discussed with top administration members, including Secretary of State Antony BlinkenAntony BlinkenIsraeli official says plans to reopen US mission for Palestinians maybe shelved Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan Nearly 200 Americans want to leave Afghanistan, State Department tells Congress MORE and Secretary of Defense Lloyd AustinLloyd AustinRepublican spin on Biden is off the mark Biden remarks on Taiwan leave administration scrambling Overnight Defense & National Security — Presented by Raytheon Technologies — Biden backtracks on Taiwan MORE, the drawdown of the U.S. civilian footprint in Afghanistan. 

The official also noted that the team discussed the developing security situation in the country as well as the safe evacuation of special immigrant visa (SIV) applicants. 

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The call also included Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark MilleyMark MilleyFormer envoy: U.S. 'did not succeed' in building democratic Afghanistan Poll: New Hampshire Senate race tight Republicans would need a promotion to be 'paper tigers' MORE, White House chief of staff Ron Klein, national security adviser Jake SullivanJake SullivanSullivan raised normalizing relations with Israel during meeting with Saudi crown prince: report Biden struggles to rein in Saudi Arabia amid human rights concerns Hillicon Valley — Presented by LookingGlass — World leaders call for enhanced cooperation to fight wave of ransomware attacks MORE and homeland security adviser Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. 

The White House did not provide any additional information about the call. 

 

Biden, who is currently at Camp David and is expected to remain there until Wednesday, has kept a relatively low profile in recent days as the Taliban have made significant territorial gains following the administration’s rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan. 

The Defense Department said Thursday that it would be sending 3,000 additional U.S. troops to assist in a significant drawdown of staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, where staff members were instructed Friday to begin destroying sensitive materials that “could be misused in propaganda efforts.”

Pentagon press secretary John Kirby also said Thursday that another 1,000 U.S. troops from a joint Army-Air Force support team were being deployed to Qatar to help process SIV applications from Afghans who assisted the U.S. during its 20-year war there. 

While Biden has repeatedly defended his decision to push for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops in Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001, conservatives have blamed the president for the growing influence of the Taliban, which has caused thousands of civilians to flee and Afghan soldiers to surrender several key territories.

On Saturday, the Taliban captured Mazar-i-Sharif, Afghanistan’s fourth-largest city and the government’s last northern stronghold. 

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The Associated Press reported that the insurgent group now controls 21 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. 

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday gave a televised address urging the international community to aid in the country’s fight against the Taliban. 

He highlighted his hopes to "stop the civil war imposed on Afghans and prevent more innocent deaths and the loss of 20 years of achievements" since U.S. troops first arrived in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban in 2001.

Conservative leaders have called on Biden to take strong actions against the Taliban, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellBiden says he's open to altering, eliminating filibuster to advance voting rights Pelosi says GOP senators 'voted to aid and abet' voter suppression for blocking revised elections bill Manchin insists he hasn't threatened to leave Democrats MORE (R-Ky.), who said this week that the U.S. should start conducting airstrikes to curb the group's territorial expansion.