The US ramped up planning for an emergency evacuation of its embassy in Kabul, as the US troops continue their withdrawal from Afghanistan and concerns linger over the security in the conflict-torn country after their departure, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing US officials.
Not only diplomats but also thousands of US citizens in the country could be evacuated; however, while the preparations have been sped up, there is currently no need for immediate evacuation, the newspaper reported Friday.
The plans are mostly classified, but the US is now keeping helicopters at the nearby Kabul airport that could be used for a possible evacuation, officials told the newspaper.
US President Joe Biden on Friday expressed concern over the internal issues the Afghan government is facing, although he said the US was still “on track” with the plan to pull out most of the troops in the next two months.
As the US troop drawdown continues, the Taliban movement has captured several districts in the north of the country. The US intelligence estimates that the government of Afghanistan could collapse six months after the withdrawal of American troops, the Wall Street Journal reported last month.
The withdrawal of foreign troops was one of the points in the peace agreement the United States signed with the Taliban in February. The launch of the intra-Afghan dialogue was another point.
Meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has approved creating a security cooperation office in Qatar with Brig. Gen. Curtis Buzzard as its head to support the Afghan national defense forces, Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said.
“The Secretary also approved the establishment of US Forces-Afghanistan Forward to be led by Navy Rear Admiral Peter Vasely, where Admiral Vasely’s command will be based in Kabul, and will be supported by Brigadier General Curtis Buzzard, who will lead the Defense Security Cooperation Management Office-Afghanistan.
That office will be based in Qatar, and will administer funding support for the Afghan national defense and security forces to include over the horizon, aircraft maintenance support,” Kirby said.
The remaining US presence in Afghanistan will be focused on protecting the US diplomatic presence in the country, supporting security requirements at the Kabul airport, advising and assisting the Afghan national defense and security forces and supporting counterterrorism efforts, Kirby added.
Earlier on Friday, the US military handed control of the Bagram Air Base outside of Kabul to the Afghan national defense forces.