Pentagon authorizes sending additional 1,000 troops to Afghanistan

The Pentagon on Sunday authorized the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, bringing the total number of troops on the ground to roughly 6,000 as the Taliban continues its advances in the capital city of Kabul.

The Pentagon and State Department announced in a joint statement that the U.S. is expanding its security presence in Afghanistan to help facilitate the safe departure of U.S. and allied personnel from the region.

The department said they are working to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport as part of the departure mission.

The additional troops will be drawn from the 82nd Airborne and sent to the Kabul airport, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told The Hill in a statement.

“As we have made clear, this is a narrowly-defined mission to safeguard the movement of civilians out of Kabul. Any threat posed to the mission will be taken seriously—and any attack on our people or on our operation will be met forcefully,” Kirby said.

The news of additional troops being sent to Afghanistan comes after President Biden announced on Saturday that the U.S. would send 1,000 more troops to Afghanistan to assist with evacuating U.S. personnel, and after the Pentagon revealed on Thursday that it was deploying 3,000 more troops to the country to help facilitate the withdrawal of embassy staff.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price announced on Sunday evening that the “safe evacuation” of personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul is complete.

“All Embassy personnel are located on the premises of Hamid Karzai International Airport, whose perimeter is secured by the U.S. Military,” Price added.

The joint statement from the Pentagon and State Department on Sunday revealed that almost 2,000 Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs) have already arrived in the U.S. over the past two weeks.

The departments are now continuing to transfer personnel who cleared security screenings, and are looking into potential locations for individuals who have not yet been screened.

The deployment of troops to Afghanistan comes as the country is facing a rapidly deteriorating security situation, with the Taliban making significant gains in the region.

Chaos broke out in the country overnight on Sunday after the insurgent group entered Kabul. Taliban fighters entered the presidential palace in the capital city, and members of the group’s leadership addressed the media from the throne of power, according to photos published by Al Jazeera.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fled the country as Taliban fighters seized Kabul on Sunday, later writing in a Facebook post that he did so to avoid bloodshed.

The U.S. is now working to pull all its staff from the embassy. The American flag at the compound was lowered on Sunday, marking the final step in the evacuation of staff from the building.

The rapidly evolving situation in Afghanistan comes as the U.S. was nearing completion of its withdrawal process, which President Biden previously said was set to finish at the end of this month.

The Taliban, however, has increased its efforts in recent weeks, capturing a number of key provincial capitals in Afghanistan as protection from U.S. and NATO forces decreased.

Updated at 10:43 p.m.

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