US Department of Defense press secretary John Kirby (file photo). Photograph:( AFP )
About 3,500 additional US troops would be sent to the region from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to be on standby if the situation worsened, as well as 1,000 personnel to help process Afghans going through a special immigration process
A journalist confronted the Pentagon’s chief spokesman, John Kirby about the 'irony' of bringing in 3,000 troops after just pulling 2,500 out of Afghanistan.
"There's a certain irony here that the drawdown was for 2,500 troops, and you are sending in an additional 3,000 to get out civilians, and ramping it up super-quick. And on top of that, another 3,500 in Kuwait...I mean, isn't this ironic?," a journalist asked Kirby on Thursday.
Kirby said the influx of fresh troops does not mean the US is reentering combat with the Taliban.
“This is a temporary mission with a narrow focus,” he told reporters at the Pentagon.
In addition to sending three infantry battalions, two from the Marine Corps and one from the Army, to the airport, the Pentagon will dispatch 3,500 to 4,000 troops from a combat brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division to Kuwait to act as a reserve force.
Kirby said they will be on standby “in case we need even more” than the 3,000 going to Kabul.
Also, about 1,000 Army and Air Force troops, including military police and medical personnel, will be sent to Qatar in coming days to support a State Department effort to accelerate its processing of Special Immigrant Visa applications from Afghans who once worked for the US government and feel threatened by the Taliban, Kirby said.
The 3,000 troops who are to arrive at the Kabul airport in the next day or two, Kirby said, are to assist with security at the airport and to help process the departure of embassy personnel, not to get involved in the Afghan government’s war with the Taliban.
The decision has cast new doubt on Washington's strategy to influence Afghanistan's peace process by maintaining aid and diplomatic personnel even after the troop withdrawal.
About 3,500 additional US troops would be sent to the region from Fort Bragg in North Carolina to be on standby if the situation worsened, as well as 1,000 personnel to help process Afghans going through a special immigration process.
It is common for the US military to send in troops to evacuate personnel in combat zones.
The United States has ordered the deployment of thousands of troops to Afghanistan to evacuate their nationals, as the Taliban overran more key regional cities in an offensive that has left the capital dangerously exposed.
The orders came as the Taliban took control of Kandahar, the nation's second biggest city in the insurgency's heartland, leaving only Kabul and pockets of other territory in government hands.
The State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday and told him the United States "remains invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan" in the face of Taliban violence.
They said Washington was reducing its "civilian footprint" in Kabul given the "evolving security situation" and would increase the tempo of Special Immigration Visa flights for Afghans who helped the US effort in the country, a State Department statement said.
Biden has insisted he has no regrets with his decision, but the speed and ease of the Taliban's urban victories in recent days has been a surprise and forced new calculations.
The Afghan government has now effectively lost control of most of the country, following an eight-day blitz into urban centres by the Taliban that has also stunned Kabul's American backers.
The offensive was launched in early May after the United States and its allies all but withdrew its forces from Afghanistan, with President Joe Biden determined to end two decades of war by September 11.
(With inputs from agencies)