The U.S. is deploying 3,000 troops to Afghanistan in order to facilitate the drawdown of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to a “core diplomatic presence,” as Taliban militants rapidly advance toward the Afghan capital.
The troops, which will consist of three infantry battalions total from the Marines and Army, will deploy to Hamid Karzai International Airport within 24 to 48 hours, according to Pentagon spokesman John Kirby.
“This is a very narrowly focused mission of safeguarding the orderly reduction of civilian personnel out of Afghanistan,” Kirby told reporters during a press briefing Thursday.
When asked if the troops going to Kabul had a combat mission, Kirby said U.S. forces maintain the right to self defense, but the mission is temporary with a focus on protecting the movement of civilian personnel. Kirby told reporters that the U.S. is still on track to complete its withdrawal by August 31.
In addition, a U.S. infantry brigade will be positioned in Kuwait in the event they are needed in Afghanistan to help secure Hamid Karzai International Airport, according to Kirby.
And a joint unit from the Army and Air Force, consisting of 1,000 personnel, will deploy to Qatar to help process visas for Afghans who helped the U.S., Kirby said.
The decision to deploy additional U.S. troops comes as the Taliban offensive makes rapid advances.
The militants captured the strategic city of Ghazni on Thursday, bringing their front line within 95 miles of Kabul, a staggering development that comes nearly two weeks before U.S. and NATO coalition forces exit.
The Taliban also claims to have captured Afghanistan’s third-largest city, Herat, in the northwest close to Iran. Fierce fighting has also been reported in Kandahar, the nation’s second-largest city.
“In light of the evolving security situation, we expect to draw down to a core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Thursday.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani earlier Thursday to coordinate planning, according Price.