The United States is sending additional troops to Kabul’s international airport to help evacuate some diplomatic staff from Afghanistan as the Taliban makes striking battlefield gains that could threaten the capital.
"We are further reducing our civilian footprint in Kabul in light of the evolving security situation," State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters on August 12, confirming earlier media reports.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said about 3,000 additional troops will join more than 650 personnel already in Kabul who have remained in the country to maintain diplomatic security.
Price said the additional military personnel would help in the reduction of diplomatic staff in the coming weeks, but he said there is “not a full evacuation” and that the embassy would remain open at its current location.
However, he did not deny reports that diplomatic work could be moved to the airport.
“Right now, the embassy remains open. We will continue to have a diplomatic presence on the ground," Price said.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul also urged all U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan “immediately” using commercial flight options.
Separately, the British government said it was also sending more troops to Afghanistan to help its embassy staff leave the country and support the relocation of Afghan staff who worked with them.
The fast-paced developments come as U.S. defense officials said this week that Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan's capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90.
The Taliban has carried out a blistering offensive since May, capturing two-thirds of the country and seizing 11 provincial capitals in just the last week.
On August 12, the Taliban took control of parts of Herat, Afghanistan's third-largest city, and captured Ghazni, about 120 kilometers from Kabul and strategically located on a road connecting the capital to the south.
Earlier this week, Taliban fighters took control of several key towns connecting the capital to the north of the country, which alongside the south and west has been almost entirely overrun by the insurgency.