SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea imposed a nationwide lockdown Thursday to control its first acknowledged COVID-19 outbreak after holding for more than two years to a widely doubted claim of a perfect record keeping out the virus that has spread to nearly every place in the world.
The outbreak forced leader Kim Jong Un to wear a mask in public, likely for the first time since the start of the pandemic, but the scale of transmissions inside North Korea wasn’t immediately known. A failure to slow infections could have serious consequences because the country has a poor health care system and its 26 million people are believed to be mostly unvaccinated. Some experts say North Korea, by its rare admission of an outbreak, may be seeking outside aid.
However, hours after North Korea confirmed the outbreak, South Korea’s military said it detected the North had fired three suspected ballistic missiles toward the sea. It was its 16th round of missile launches this year, in brinkmanship aimed at forcing the United States to accept North Korea as a nuclear power and negotiate sanctions relief and other concessions from a position of strength.
WILTON MANORS, Fla. – Detectives announced late Friday night that they had arrested a suspect in connection to seven overdoses of fentanyl-laced cocaine at a home in Broward County.
The victims included West Point cadets, according to the U.S. Military Academy. Three still remained hospitalized on Friday — including two whose condition were critical.
The group of college students on spring break from New York needed help shortly before 5 p.m. on Thursday, at a short-term rental, at 811 NW 29 Court in Wilton Manors.
Six were hospitalized first and a woman later in the day, according to the Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Department.
Ukraine’s embattled leader accused Russia of war crimes and “state terrorism” Tuesday after a fresh blast struck the heart of the country’s second-largest city, fueling fears civilians would face the brunt of an intensifying assault.
As the conflict escalated on its sixth day, increasingly heavy shelling hit major cities and a vast convoy of Russian forces threatened the capital, Kyiv.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to defend Kyiv and sought to rally both his country and the international community against what he called “outright, undisguised terror” from Moscow, in a video message posted on social media.
Global condemnation and crippling sanctions have left the Kremlin isolated in the wake of last week’s invasion, confronting a spiraling economy and dogged defense from Ukrainian forces. U.S. officials said they feared Russian President Vladimir Putin, frustrated by his military’s struggles, may see an escalation of violence as his only option.
Latest updates on Ukraine:
- Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, was hit by intensifying shelling.
- A huge convoy of Russian forces approached Kyiv.
- Zelenskyy vowed to defend “the heart of our country.”
- U.S. officials said they feared a frustrated Putin may order escalation of violence.
- Moscow insisted Western sanctions won’t get it to change its approach toward Ukraine.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States, European Union and United Kingdom on Saturday agreed to put in place crippling sanctions on the Russian financial sector, including a block on its access to the global financial system and, for the first time, restrictions on its central bank in retaliation for its invasion of Ukraine.
The measures were announced jointly as part of a new round of financial sanctions meant to “hold Russia to account and collectively ensure that this war is a strategic failure for (Russian President Vladimir) Putin.” The central bank restrictions target the more than $600 billion in reserves that the Kremlin has at its disposal, meant to limit Russia’s ability to support the ruble amid tightening Western sanctions.
Cumulatively the steps announced by the West since Russia began the invasion would potentially amount to some of the toughest sanctions on any country in modern times, and if fully carried out as planned, would severely damage the Russian economy and markedly constrain its ability to import and export goods.
The Biden administration is considering sending as many as 5,000 U.S. troops to Eastern Europe, a U.S. official confirmed to NPR, in what would be a step-up in American military involvement in the region amid growing fears of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
U.S. troops could be headed to Romania and Poland, or possibly Bulgaria or Hungary. No final decision has been made but the troops have been told to be ready to move, the official said.
U.S. service members could be drawn from their existing posts elsewhere in NATO countries in Europe. Some of the troops would also likely come from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, N.C.
The New York Times, which first reported the news of planned troop movements, said senior Pentagon officials laid out a number of options for President Biden on Saturday.
Among them, sending 1,000 to 5,000 troops to Eastern European countries and the Baltics, “with the potential to increase that number tenfold if things deteriorate,” according to the Times.
There are no plans to send more Americans into Ukraine itself, according to the paper.
(CNN)A US Marine is facing charges after a military tactical vehicle he was driving overturned near Camp Lejeune in North Carolina on Wednesday, killing two service members and injuring 17 others, officials said.The crash happened around 1 p.m. at the intersection of US 17 and Highway 210 in Jacksonville, the state highway patrol said.The vehicle was attempting to make a right turn at the intersection when it overturned into the median, throwing 17 passengers out of the vehicle, a statement from the North Carolina Highway Patrol said.“A second military vehicle being operated behind the initial vehicle was unable to come to a stop and struck one of the ejected passengers,” the statement said.
All those involved in the accident were active-duty service members with 2nd Marine Logistics Group, II Marine Expeditionary Force, based out of Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, a statement from the 2nd Marine Logistics Group said.
The vehicle involved in the crash is described as “a medium tactical vehicle replacement (MTVR) — more commonly referred to as a “7-ton” — which is used primarily for troop and equipment transportation purposes,” according to the statement.
Gen. Frank McKenzie said that he recommended maintaining a small force of 2,500 troops in Afghanistan earlier this year.
A female U.S. military service member was reportedly assaulted by several male Afghan evacuees being housed at Fort Bliss.
TAIPEI, Sept 23 (Reuters) – Taiwan’s air force scrambled again on Thursday to warn off 19 Chinese aircraft that entered its air defence zone, Taiwan’s defence ministry said, the latest uptick in tensions across the Taiwan Strait.
The Chinese aircraft included 12 J-16 fighters and two nuclear-capable H-6 bombers, the ministry added.Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Giles Elgood
A military aircraft crashed in a Texas neighborhood Sunday afternoon, damaging several homes, police said.
The crash happened between the 4000 blocks of Tejas and Dakota in Lake Worth Texas, about 10 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
The military based the strike on a reasonable certainty standard to launch the strike on the vehicle. Tragically, it was the wrong vehicle.
Retired Army colonel Douglas Macgregor told “Tucker Carlson Tonight” that if allegations Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Mark Milley assured China he would warn them if Trump were to launch a military strike, it would be a violation of the law.
If the allegations made by Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Robert Costa about Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley assuring China they would be forewarned, should then-President Trump decide to launch a military attack, the top White House military advisor has violated the law and should be called before Congress to testify, according to retired Army Col. Douglas Macgregor.
Macgregor, who retired from the military in 2004 and became a senior Pentagon adviser to Trump-era Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller, told “Tucker Carlson Tonight” he was not as surprised as much of the public by the allegation Milley essentially undermined his boss, the then-president, and gave comfort to a rival nation.
Macgregor told host Tucker Carlson that he is not surprised by the allegation, but noted that Milley – as of 8 PM ET – has yet to offer his side of the story. The colonel added that Woodward – who has written other exposes on the Trump era – has a tendency to be “somewhat flexible in interpretation” of events and quotations.
Two days after the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, President Donald Trump’s top military adviser, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley, single-handedly took secret action to limit Trump from potentially ordering a dangerous military strike or launching nuclear weapons, according to “Peril,” a new book by legendary journalist Bob Woodward and veteran Washington Post reporter Robert Costa.
Right after Trump lost the election, Milley discovered the President had signed a military order to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by January 15, 2021, before he left the White House.
TOKYO (AP) — Japan can now give defense equipment and technology to Vietnam under an agreement signed Saturday, as the two countries step up their military cooperation amid worries about China’s growing military influence.
Japan’s Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the deal elevates their defense partnership “to a new level” and that Japan and Vietnam plan to deepen defense ties through multinational joint exercises and other means. Details about the transfer of specific equipment, including naval vessels, will be worked out in subsequent talks, the ministry said.
Kishi’s meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart, Phan Van Giang, in Hanoi coincided with a two-day visit to the Vietnamese capital by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. He wrapped up his visit by saying China plans to donate 3 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine to Vietnam.
The agreement comes two weeks after the U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris travelled to Vietnam to strengthen ties with the Southeast Asian nation. During the tour, Harris urged countries to stand up against “bullying” by China in the South China Sea.
The Israel Defense Forces overnight Saturday-Sunday carried out another round of retaliatory airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, following two rocket attacks on southern Israel in less than 24 hours.
The military said the raids targeted a Hamas underground rocket production workshop, weapons storage site, training facility, and tunnel. The IDF said it holds Hamas responsible for all rockets emanating from the enclave.
Earlier Saturday night, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket at southern Israel, raising the specter of renewed conflict. The rocket was intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system. The attack triggered sirens in the town of Sderot and surrounding communities in southern Israel.
A 29-year-old man sustained a light head wound after he fell while running to a bomb shelter. He was taken to Ashkelon’s Barzilai Medical Center for treatment, medics said.
Shortly after 11 p.m. on Friday, Palestinian terrorists in the Gaza Strip fired a single rocket towards Israel that was intercepted by the Iron Dome system, the army said. The rocket triggered warning sirens in the Eshkol region and local residents reported hearing several explosions. There were no reports of injuries or damage.
A US airstrike in Kabul against a supposed Islamic State bomber actually killed an innocent man who worked for a US aid group and his family, according to newly published testimony and footage — raising the specter that the Pentagon lied to the public about the strike.
The reported case of mistaken identity also further tars President Biden for his chaotic pullout of US troops from Afghanistan, which left behind hundreds of US citizens and thousands of at-risk Afghans.
Zemari Ahmadi and nine members of his family, including seven children, were killed in the airstrike on Aug. 29, one day before the final US evacuation flights from Kabul, his brother Romal Ahmadi told the New York Times.
Ahmadi, who was the apparent target of the strike, worked for 14 years as a technical engineer in Afghanistan for the Pasadena, Calif.-based charity group Nutrition and Education International, which feeds hungry Afghans.
The aid group had applied for him to move to the US as a refugee.
New security footage from his workplace shows Ahmadi, whose neighborhood had unreliable water service, filling containers with water at his employer’s office at 2:35 p,m. shortly before he returned home. Fire-damaged containers consistent with the water canisters were photographed by the Times.
BY MIRANDA DEVINE
Psst, Nancy Pelosi! Still looking for a phone call worth impeaching a president?
Do I have news for you.
Reuters has a bombshell report about a July phone call between Joe Biden and then-Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani, in which the US president promises military aid in return for lies.
The “perception around the world and in parts of Afghanistan, I believe, is that things aren’t going well in terms of the fight against the Taliban,” says Biden in the July 23 call. “And there’s a need, whether it is true or not, there is a need to project a different picture.”
Whether it is true or not.
No, things weren’t going well, three weeks after the US abandoned Bagram Airfield in the dead of night.
Biden’s solution was to create the “perception” that all was fine. He wanted to keep the illusion going long enough to cover his Aug. 31 self-imposed deadline to withdraw US troops and have a victory lap on September 11th, when he would preen as the first president to end the forever war.
So he asked Ghani to trick up an event to make it look as if he had a plan to push back on the Taliban to reassure America’s allies who were beginning to question Biden’s timetable.
“I don’t know whether you’re aware,” said Biden, “just how much the perception around the world is that this is looking like a losing proposition . . . so the conclusion I’m asking you to consider is to bring together everyone from [ex-Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid] Dostum, to [ex-President Hamid] Karzai and in between. If they stand there and say they back the strategy you put together, and put a warrior in charge, you know a military man . . . in charge of executing that strategy, and that will change perception.”
Ghani tried to explain that the situation was dire: “Mr. President, we are facing a full-scale invasion, composed of Taliban, full Pakistani planning and logistical support, and at least 10-15,000 international terrorists.”
He begged for US air support. “What is crucial is, close air support . . . a very heavy reliance on air power.”
The Afghan army was based on the US model, which relies on air support for enemy strikes, ferrying the wounded, and so on. But the contractors who serviced Afghan aircraft had left, leaving the Afghan army exposed.
Biden offered conditional air support, in return for Ghani going along with his ruse, but only until his Aug. 31 deadline. After that, “who knows?”
(CNN)North Korea appears to have restarted operations at a power plant capable of producing plutonium for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ nuclear watchdog.The International Atomic Energy Agency said that clues, such as the discharge of cooling water, observed in early July indicated the plant is active. No such evidence had been observed since December 2018, the IAEA said.The IAEA said the findings, published Friday in an annual report on Pyongyang’s nuclear program, were “deeply troubling” and “a cause for serious concern.”“The continuation of the DPRK’s nuclear program is a clear violation of relevant UN Security Council resolutions and is deeply regrettable,” the report added, referring to North Korea by its official acronym, The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK).The IAEA said there also were signs of activity at the nearby radiochemical laboratory, from mid-February until early July. The power plant is used to make nuclear fuel, and the radiochemical laboratory is used to reprocess the fuel rods from the plant into plutonium that can, theoretically, be used in the manufacturing of nuclear weapons.Both the plant and the lab are located in North Korea’s best-known nuclear complex, Yongbyon.The IAEA and other independent analysts have previously reported on the observed activity at the radiochemical laboratory and believed it may have been part of a campaign to turn nuclear fuel into plutonium for nuclear weapons.IAEA Director-General Rafael Grossi said in June that the duration of activity at the lab was consistent “with the time required for a reprocessing campaign.”
WASHINGTON – The United States carried out a military strike on Sunday against an ISIS-K target in Kabul, a development that comes in the final days of an immense humanitarian evacuation mission.
“U.S. military forces conducted a self-defense unmanned over-the-horizon airstrike today on a vehicle in Kabul, eliminating an imminent ISIS-K threat to Hamad Karzai International airport,” U.S. Central Command spokesman Navy Capt. Bill Urban wrote in a statement.“We are confident we successfully hit the target. Significant secondary explosions from the vehicle indicated the presence of a substantial amount of explosive material,” he added.
There were no known civilian casualties following the strike.
The latest strike follows a Friday drone strike that killed two high-profile ISIS-K members believed to be involved in planning attacks against U.S. forces in Kabul. Army Maj. Gen. William Taylor said that there were no known civilian casualties following the strike.
Friday’s strike came less than two days after a suicide bomber detonated an explosive near the gates of Kabul’s airport, resulting in the deaths of 13 American service members.
The White House said Sunday that the president and first lady will meet with the families of the fallen and observe a dignified transfer of the remains at Dover Air Force Base.A dignified transfer is a solemn process in which the remains of fallen service members are carried from an aircraft to an awaiting vehicle. A dignified transfer is conducted for every U.S. service member killed in action.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The United States military struck back at the Islamic State on Saturday, bombing an IS member in Afghanistan less than 48 hours after a devastating suicide bombing claimed by the group killed as many as 169 Afghans and 13 American service members at the Kabul airport.
U.S. Central Command said the U.S. conducted a drone strike against an Islamic State member in Nangahar believed to be involved in planning attacks against the U.S. in Kabul. The strike killed one individual, and spokesman Navy Capt. William Urban said they knew of no civilian casualties.
It wasn’t clear if that individual was involved specifically in the Thursday suicide blast outside the gates of the Kabul airport, where crowds of Afghans were desperately trying to get in as part of the ongoing evacuation from the country after the Taliban’s rapid takeover.
The airstrike fulfilled a vow President Joe Biden made to the nation Thursday when he said the perpetrators of the attack would not be able to hide. “We will hunt you down and make you pay,” he said. Pentagon leaders told reporters Friday that they were prepared for whatever retaliatory action the president ordered.
“We have options there right now,” said Maj. Gen. Hank Taylor of the Pentagon’s Joint Staff.
Thursday’s suicide bombing at Kabul airport was the most deadly attack on American forces in Afghanistan since 2011. In remarks on the attack, President Biden honored the fallen soldiers by quoting the Hebrew Bible. “The American military has been answering for a long time. ‘Here I am, Lord. Send me,'” Biden said, in an allusion to Isaiah 6:8. “Each one of these women and men of our Armed Forces are the heirs of that tradition of sacrifice, of volunteering to go into harm’s way, to risk everything; not for glory, not for profit, but to defend what we love and the people we love.”
Biden’s point was that the Marines and other personnel overseeing the evacuation knew they were in danger of precisely the kind of attack that occurred but continued their duties anyway. In that respect, it was a fitting effort to honor their courage.
But the Biblical verse he used was a bad choice to make that point. Jews read Isaiah 6 as describing God’s calling to serve as prophet to the chosen people. For many Christians, it is seen as prefiguring the vocation of missionaries to promote the Gospel. In both interpretations, the phrase “Here I am” expresses willingness to participate in the fulfillment of divine purposes.
The conflation of foreign policy with a religious vocation is a recurring tendency in American history. It’s also a dangerous one, because it transforms agonizing calculations of risk and benefit into contests between good and evil. Biden is leading American forces out of Afghanistan and appealed to national interests elsewhere in his remarks. Yet the crusading attitude that the Bible quote expressed is part of the reason we have failed to secure those interests for the last two decades. To avoid similar disasters in the future, we need to remember that presidents are not prophets and the U.S. military is not the army of God.
(CNN)Twelve US service members and dozens of Afghans have been killed in two bombing attacks outside Kabul’s airport, according to the Pentagon and Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health.The deadly blasts came as the United States and other Western countries raced to complete a massive evacuation of their citizens and Afghan allies following the Taliban takeover of the country.An official with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health told CNN on Thursday that more than 60 people were dead and 140 wounded.Fifteen US service members were injured in addition to the 12 dead, said Gen. Frank McKenzie, Commander of US Central Command.US officials have been warning over the past week that a threat of a terror attack at the airport was becoming more acute. Earlier on Thursday local time, US diplomats in Kabul warned American citizens to “immediately” leave several gates into the airport, citing security threats.A US defense official had also told CNN that officials were concerned by a “very specific threat stream” involving the ISIS affiliate in Afghanistan.US officials believe the group, ISIS-K, was likely behind today’s attack but are still working to confirm its involvement, according to a senior US official and another source briefed on initial assessments. The second source told CNN it may take a few hours before US officials are able to identify the specific individuals who carried out the apparent suicide bombing.
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A panicked crush of people trying to enter Kabul’s international airport killed seven Afghan civilians in the crowds, the British military said Sunday, showing the danger still posed to those trying to flee the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
The deaths come as a new, perceived threat from the Islamic State group affiliate in Afghanistan has seen U.S. military planes do rapid, diving combat landings at the airport surrounded by Taliban fighters. Other aircraft have shot off flares on takeoff, an effort to confuse possible heat-seeking missiles targeting the planes.
The changes come as the U.S. Embassy issued a new security warning Saturday telling citizens not to travel to the Kabul airport without individual instruction from a U.S. government representative. Officials declined to provide more specifics about the IS threat but described it as significant. They said there have been no confirmed attacks as yet by the militants, who have battled the Taliban in the past.
On Sunday, the British military acknowledged the seven deaths of civilians in the crowds in Kabul. There have been stampedes and crushing injuries in the crowds, especially as Taliban fighters fire into the air to drive away those desperate to get on any flight out of the country.
“Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
On Saturday, British and Western troops in full combat gear tried to control the crowds pressing in. They carried away some who were sweating and pale. With temperatures reaching 34 degree Celsius (93 degrees Fahrenheit), the soldiers sprayed water from a hose on those gathered or gave them bottled water to pour over their heads.
“Listen sir, you need to calm down,” one soldier told a man laying in the dirt, as another gave him an orange liquid. “Calm down.”
It wasn’t immediately clear whether those killed had been physically crushed, suffocated or suffered a fatal heart attack in the crowds. Soldiers covered several corpses in white clothes to hide them from view. Other troops stood atop concrete barriers or shipping containers, trying to calm the crowd. Gunshots occasionally rang out.
Speaking to an Iranian state television channel late Saturday night in a video call, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem blamed the deaths at the airport on the Americans in what quickly became a combative interview.
“The Americans announced that we would take you to America with us and people gathered at Kabul airport,” Naeem said. “If it was announced right now in any country in the world, would people not go?”
The fight for Afghanistan may not be entirely over.
A high-ranking former Afghan government official said Friday that resistance fighters — mainly made of about 300 battle-ready mujahideen members and commanders linked to the Northern Alliance — wrestled three districts in the northeastern Baghlan province out of Taliban control on Friday, killing upwards of 36 Taliban fighters and wounding dozens more.
The local fighters, often referred to as the public uprising forces, are said to have used their own weapons to retake control of Banu, Pol-e-Hesar and De Salah districts in the beleaguered province.
“The advance continues towards Khenjan in North Salang now,” the former official said, noting that locals were quick to remove the Taliban flag in the re-captured regions.
As the Taliban swept to control of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals and big cities last week, culminating by their capture of Kabul on Sunday, local warlords appealed en masse to the central government for air support and heavy weaponry to repel the offensive — to no avail.
US defence officials reportedly said the passengers – among them women and children – on the flight were safely evacuated from Kabul to Qatar on Sunday.
5,000 troops are being sent to Afghanistan to evacuate U.S. Diplomats and Afghan allies.
WASHINGTON — People with ties to Afghanistan are pleading to President Joe Biden to step in and help as hundreds of people protested Saturday afternoon outside the White House.
The protest was hours after President Biden authorized an additional 1,000 U.S. troops for deployment to Afghanistan, raising to roughly 5,000 the number of U.S. troops to evacuate U.S. diplomats and Afghan allies.
“We want Mr. President to hear and to act immediately, we want him to act now because Afghanistan is in a tragedy and we want him to stop the Taliban,” Azahullah Zalmay said.
Zalmay lives in Northern Virginia but his home country is Afghanistan.
He said it’s been hard to watch what’s happening from 7,000 miles away.
“To be honest I am dying,” Zalmay said. “Since last night I haven’t slept yet. I couldn’t sleep. It’s a tragedy for my people. I can’t sleep.”
The insurgents stormed across the country, capturing all major cities in a matter of days, as Afghan security forces trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies melted away.
WHY DID THE AFGHAN SECURITY FORCES COLLAPSE?
The short answer? Corruption.
The U.S. and its NATO allies spent billions of dollars over two decades to train and equip Afghan security forces. But the Western-backed government was rife with corruption.
WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT IN AFGHANISTAN?
It’s not clear.
The Taliban say they want to form an “inclusive, Islamic government” with other factions. They are holding negotiations with senior politicians, including leaders in the former government.
They have pledged to enforce Islamic law but say they will provide a secure environment for the return of normal life after decades of war.
But many Afghans distrust the Taliban and fear that their rule will be violent and oppressive. One sign that worries people is that they want to rename the country the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, which is what they called it the last time they ruled.
President Joe Biden showed no sign of backing away from his decision to withdraw all troops and a significant portion of the diplomatic corps from Afghanistan, restating his determination to leave the country in a statement released Saturday.
Biden authorized the deployment of some 5,000 U.S. troops to ensure “an orderly and safe” drawdown of U.S. and allied personnel in Afghanistan, which came after reports of the evacuation of U.S. Embassy staff in Kabul to the international airport as the Taliban rapidly close in on the capital.
The Taliban are advancing rapidly across large parts of Afghanistan. They are now in control of more territory than at any time since they were ousted from power in 2001.
Emboldened by the withdrawal of US troops, they are gaining ground in many districts. Government forces are in retreat.
Cities now under Taliban control include Kandahar, Herat, Lashkar Gah and Ghazni, which is just 150km from Kabul.
Taliban fighters have also taken Mazar-i-Sharif, an anti-Taliban bastion which was the last major city in northern Afghanistan still under government control.
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.