By Ayesha Tanzeem, Ayaz Gul, Jeff Seldin
KABUL/ISLAMABAD/WASHINGTON – U.S. President Joe Biden on Saturday authorized another 1,000 troops — in addition to the 3,000 ordered earlier last week — to go to Afghanistan to assist in the evacuation of U.S. personnel and other allies from Kabul as Taliban insurgents drew closer to the Afghan capital.
Biden’s announcement comes as the Taliban have swept through most of the country, taking 25 out of 34 Afghan provincial capitals over the past week.
The stunning insurgent offensive captured several of them Saturday, including the fourth-largest northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif. Jalalabad, the last remaining major city outside the capital, Kabul, was taken Sunday.
The advances have raised fears of an imminent attack on Kabul, where Western countries are scrambling to remove their citizens.
“We have conveyed to the Taliban representatives in Doha, (Qatar), that any action on their part on the ground in Afghanistan, that puts U.S. personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response,” a White House statement quoted Biden as saying.
A U.S. defense official explained that there will be 5,000 American troops in Kabul: on Thursday, Biden ordered 3,000 troops for the evacuation mission, 1,000 were already in Kabul and 1,000 more from the 82nd Airborne were added on Saturday.
The Pentagon said the first batch of the authorized force, from a Marine infantry battalion, arrived Friday and that the rest of the troops were expected to be in place by the end of Sunday.
U.S.-trained Afghan security forces have crumbled in the face of insurgent advances and surrendered without firing a shot or retreated in many of the cases.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has blamed the sudden U.S.-led foreign military withdrawal for the shocking battlefield losses his government has suffered.
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