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U.S. 'Remains Invested' In Afghanistan, Ghani Told, Despite Withdrawal Of Civilians


The U.S. flag and a helicopter are reflected in the windows of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. (file photo)

The U.S. secretaries of state and defense have told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that the United States "remains invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan in the face of violence by the Taliban,” despite a decision on August 12 to scale down its embassy in Kabul.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin gave Ghani the assurances in a phone call late on August 12 after the announcement about the drawdown of civilians from the embassy.

“The secretaries both emphasized that the United States remains committed to maintaining a strong diplomatic and security relationship with the government of Afghanistan,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

The United States will send about 3,000 additional troops to Kabul’s international airport to help evacuate some of the diplomatic staff.

The additional troops will join more than 650 personnel already in Kabul who have remained in the country to maintain diplomatic security, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said. The first deployment is expected within 24 to 48 hours.

The deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan remains August 31; however, 650 troops will remain after that to protect the airport and the embassy.

The United States also will increase the tempo of Special Immigration Visa flights for Afghans who helped the U.S. effort in the country, Price said in the statement.

Price said earlier that the military personnel would help in the reduction of diplomatic staff in the coming weeks but denied that it was an abandonment of the U.S. diplomatic mission.

"We expect to draw down to a core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan in the coming weeks," he said, adding that the embassy was not closed.

"What this is is a reduction in the size of our civilian footprint,” he said in a briefing with reporters. “The message we are sending to the people of Afghanistan is one of enduring partnership.”

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 12 provincial capitals in just the last week.

With reporting by AFP, AP, and Reuters
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