Correspondent in New York
The Taliban continue with an accelerated military campaign to take control of Afghanistan and Joe Biden, the president of the United States, has ordered this Saturday the sending additional troops to Kabul, the country’s capital, to protect the evacuation of its diplomatic personnel and Afghan allies.
The Biden Administration had already made the decision to send troops to Kabul in the face of the rapid advance of the Taliban, who control almost all of the country’s main cities, and are on the lookout for Kabul.
The president announced in his statement that he has authorized “the deployment of approximately five thousand men in order to carry out an orderly and safe withdrawal of personnel from the United States and other countries and a orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who assisted our troops during our mission and to those at particular risk from the advance of the Taliban.
The Pentagon later clarified that a thousand additional troops would attend, joining a contingent of about four thousand soldiers and marines who are already in Afghanistan or will arrive shortly.
The US president is at a delicate moment: a popular decision that he promised in the campaign – the return of troops from Afghanistan after twenty years of war – is becoming a headache due to the unusual and rapid advance of the Taliban. The Afghan army, which the US has funded and trained all this time, does not seem capable of resisting the insurgents. Washington had a period of at least six to twelve months to organize an orderly exit from the country, and Kabul could fall shortly. After two decades in the country and having dedicated efforts to promote a democratic regime and expand the civil liberties of the population -such as the rights of women and girls-, everything falls like a house of cards in a matter of weeks.
The greatest danger will be for Afghans who have cooperated with the Americans during this time and who may now be retaliatory meat from the Taliban. Biden announced that he has placed a State Department veteran, Tracey Jacobson, at the forefront of efforts to grant visas and get these “allies” out of the country.
“Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now in danger,” Biden said. “We are working to evacuate thousands of those who helped our cause and their families,” he added, although he did not give information on how many will evacuate. About 1,200 have been evacuated to the US. in recent days and the Biden Administration has said it will move another 4,000 to safety while their visas are processed. But there are many thousands more at risk.
In his message, Biden assured that he has ordered things that seem difficult to guarantee in the face of the strength of the Taliban. For example, that the US “maintain the capacity and vigilance to face future terrorist threats from Afghanistan.” Or support Ashraf Ghani, the Prime Minister of Kabul, in “preventing further bloodshed and reaching a political settlement.”
Biden also left a warning to the Taliban: if there is any operation that puts their mission in jeopardy “it will be answered with a swift and strong military response.”
Despite the criticism at home and the blur it may bring to US history, Biden once again defended his decision to leave Afghanistan: “One more year or five years of US military presence would not change a thing if the Afghan army cannot control its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another civil war in a country was not something acceptable to me. Of course, he blamed his predecessor – Donald Trump – for reaching a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban that left the insurgents “in their strongest military situation since 2001.”