U.S. troops arrive in Afghanistan to help with evacuation
American troops have flown into Kabul to help evacuate embassy personnel and other civilians in the Afghan capital, a U.S. official said on Saturday, a day after Taliban insurgents seized the country’s second- and third-biggest cities. The Pentagon has said two battalions of Marines and one infantry battalion will arrive in Kabul by Sunday evening, involving about 3,000 troops.
Britain and several other Western nations are also sending troops as resistance from Afghan government forces crumbles and fears grow that an assault on Kabul could be just days away.
In Kabul, US embassy staff have been ordered to begin shredding and burning sensitive material, as units from a planned re-deployment of 3,000 American troops started arriving to secure the airport and oversee the evacuations. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said “elements” of a battalion were now in Kabul, the vanguard of three Marine and Army battalions that the US was sending to the city.
On Saturday, the Taliban launched a multi-pronged assault on Mazar-i-Sharif, a major city in northern Afghanistan defended by powerful former warlords, according to Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Balkh province. There was no immediate word on casualties.
The US is also moving an additional 4,500 to 5,000 troops to bases in the Gulf countries of Qatar and Kuwait, including 1,000 to Qatar to speed up visa processing for Afghan translators and others who fear retribution from the Taliban for their past work with Americans, and their family members.
The Taliban captured Logar province, situated less than 80 kilometres south of Afghanistan’s capital Kabul on Saturday, reported The Associated Press. Homa Ahmadi, a lawmaker from Logar, claimed the Taliban now controlled the entire province including its capital, and had even reached a district in the neighbouring Kabul province.
The Taliban, which grew in popularity in its initial days because of its promise to curb crime and corruption, later became notorious for brutally imposing their harsh version of Sharia. The girls and women of Afghanistan particularly bore the brunt of the Taliban regime, which banned them from schools and workplaces.
Reports suggest that the group has resorted to its old tactics of oppressing women in the name of a “genuine Islamic system.” The Taliban has again promised to restore peace and security to its followers while hundreds of thousands of civilians get displaced fearing persecution.