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World News24

World News24

World News24

As Taliban camps just 50km away from Kabul, embassies prepare to airlift staff out before 'all-out assault'

Posted on August 14 2021, 05:56am

As Taliban camps just 50km away from Kabul, embassies prepare to airlift staff out before 'all-out assault'
As Taliban camps just 50km away from Kabul, embassies prepare to airlift staff out before 'all-out assault'

KABUL: The Afghan Taliban has tightened its stranglehold around Kabul on Saturday, as refugees flooded the capital and US Marines returned to oversee emergency evacuations.

Insurgent fighters are now camped just 50 kilometres (30 miles) away from Kabul, leaving the United States and other countries scrambling to airlift their nationals out of Kabul ahead of a feared all-out assault.
The US Marine vanguard have also landed in Kabul even as the US sped up evacuation flights for some American diplomats and thousands of Afghans, spurred by a lightning Taliban offensive that increasingly is isolating Afghanistan's capital.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said "elements" of a battalion were now in Kabul, the vanguard of three Marine and Army battalions that the US was sending to the city by the end of the weekend to help more Americans and their Afghan colleagues get out quickly.

'It will not be good for them': Taliban warns India on any military role in Afghanistan; appreciates capacity-building efforts by Indian govt

US embassy staff were ordered to begin shredding and burning sensitive material, as units from a planned re-deployment of 3,000 American troops started arriving to secure the airport and oversee the evacuations.

A host of European countries -- including Britain, Germany, Denmark and Spain -- all announced the withdrawal of personnel from their respective embassies on Friday.

Meanwhile, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace spoke out against the US decision to pull its troops out of Afghanistan, calling it a "mistake", which has handed the Taliban a "momentum" in the country. Speaking to Sky News on Friday, Wallace said the withdrawal agreement negotiated in Doha, Qatar, by the administration of former US President Donald Trump was a "rotten deal", reports Xinhua news agency.

Even UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was "deeply disturbed" by accounts of poor treatment of women in areas seized by the Taliban, who imposed an ultra-austere brand of Islam on Afghanistan during their 1996-2001 rule.

"It is particularly horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard-won rights of Afghan girls and women being ripped away," Guterres said.

For Kabul residents and the tens of thousands who have sought refuge there in recent weeks, the overwhelming mood was one of confusion and fear of what lies ahead.

"We don't know what is going on," one resident, Khairddin Logari, told AFP.

Taliban sweep across Afghanistan''s south, take 3 more cities

The scale and speed of the Taliban advance has shocked Afghans and the US-led alliance that poured billions into the country after toppling the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks nearly 20 years ago.

Days before a final US withdrawal ordered by President Joe Biden, individual soldiers, units and even whole divisions have surrendered -- handing the insurgents even more vehicles and military hardware to fuel their lightning advance.

Despite the frantic evacuation efforts, the Biden administration continues to insist that a complete Taliban takeover is not inevitable.

"Kabul is not right now in an imminent threat environment," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said Friday, while acknowledging that Taliban fighters were "trying to isolate" the city.

The Taliban offensive has accelerated in recent days, with the capture of Herat in the north and, just hours later, the seizure of Kandahar -- the group's spiritual heartland in the south.

Kandahar resident Abdul Nafi told AFP the city was calm after government forces abandoned it for the sanctuary of military facilities outside, where they were negotiating terms of surrender.

Pro-Taliban social media accounts have boasted of the vast spoils of war captured by the insurgents -- posting photos of armoured vehicles, heavy weapons, and even a drone seized by their fighters at abandoned military bases.

In Herat, the Taliban captured long-time strongman Ismail Khan, who helped lead the defence of the provincial capital along with his militia fighters. Pul-e-Alam, capital of Loghar province, was the latest city to fall on Friday, putting the Taliban within striking distance of Kabul.

Helicopters flitted back and forth between Kabul's airport and the sprawling US diplomatic compound in the heavily fortified Green Zone -- 46 years after choppers evacuated Americans from Saigon, signalling the end of the Vietnam War.

Pentagon spokesman Kirby said that most of the troops shepherding the evacuation would be in place by Sunday and "will be able to move thousands per day" out of Afghanistan.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani likely to address nation amid Taliban's violent resurgence

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