Ned Price, the spokesman of the State Department, said on Tuesday that officials are discussing additional withdrawal of the United States embassy members in Kabul because the Taliban forces continue to capture more cities and districts in Afghanistan. Those unexpected rapid gains of the Taliban made the situation more urgent and accelerated the conversations about drawdown.
United States officials are no longer discussing six months as the possible timeline for the Afghanistan government to collapse. At the moment, they believe it could happen much more rapidly, according to two sources familiar with the talks. It is because the American military started pulling out from the country and completed over ninety-five percent of the United States troop withdrawal, which was planned to complete by late August.
The source added that at present, the State Department is doing homework to find out crucial personnel in the Embassy, and some type of partial drawdown of staff members may occur in the upcoming days or weeks. Earlier this year, the Embassy already cut the number of diplomats in Kabul, where hundreds of personnel are serving and slowly continued to reduce the general footprint in recent months.
Sources said that the officials still have not made the final decision about the particulars of a further drawdown, but they expected that the decision could become clearer in the coming days. The State Department is assessing the risks on a daily basis to find out what the staffing stance is that is the top interest for those personnel’s working at the Embassy, and how the officials continue to plan about their safety.
The Unstable Security Situation in Kabul
Some officials of the Biden government were against the pulling out of United States diplomats from the Embassy in Kabul, but now they are starting to change their believes and agree with the more sensible approach of officials who want to start the process now. So officials are thinking on these lines, even if it only means withdrawing a small number of United States diplomats and contractors before any big number of personnel pulled out under pressure.
One defense official and a source said that the United States doesn’t think Kabul is under instant threat, but the Biden government must be prepared for any situation. Furthermore, a defense official said that the American military would openly support a cut in the number of staffers at the United States embassy in Kabul because it is difficult to do so with more people in case of an essential evacuation.
The official also told CNN that the U.S. military is preparing transportation capability and maintaining continuous security if they need to evacuate the Embassy. However, he emphasized that the military is aware of the decision about the Embassy U.S. rests with the State Department. According to the defense official, in case of the order from the department to evacuate the Embassy, they have a plan to put a large number of American troops on the ground, the roads, the airport, and the airspace between the two countries to ensure the security of the personnel at the Embassy and elsewhere.
Will the U.S. be Able to Maintain Diplomatic Support for the Afghan Government?
The United States State Department repetitively said that they plan to keep their diplomatic footprint in the Afghan capital after the completion of the American military withdrawal. However, more cuts of personnel at the Embassy will instantly strengthen fears that the United States is leaving Afghanistan while the country met with a likely civil war. Whereas the situation raised concerns about the claim of the Biden government that they will be able to maintain diplomatic support for the Afghan government.
Last month, Tony Blinken, the Secretary of State, said that the U.S. is withdrawing the troops from Afghanistan, but they are not leaving Afghanistan completely. Instead, the government decided to engage diplomatically and support the Afghan people and government with humanitarian, economic, and development assistance. The U.S. will also provide support to the Afghan security forces. Joe Biden, the President of the United States, previously echoed these thoughts by saying that his administration will maintain its diplomatic presence in Afghanistan.
The U.S. State Department already cut the number of staff members at the American Embassy in the Afghan capital. The department ordered the withdrawal of the U.S. government staff members in April from the American Embassy in Kabul. Those employees were those whose roles are easy to perform elsewhere, and the department took the decision because of the growing violence and reports of severe threats in Kabul.
The United States Embassy in Kabul Urges Americans to Leave Afghanistan
The U.S. embassy urged its citizens in Afghanistan to leave the country as soon as possible using any available commercial flight operations. However, the security alert of the Embassy said that because of reduced staffing and bad security conditions, the ability of the Embassy to assist United States citizens in the country is extremely limited even within Kabul.
The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options.
— U.S. Embassy Kabul (@USEmbassyKabul) August 7, 2021