The US has started evacuating its diplomats and staff from its embassy in Kabul as the Taliban has started to storm the Afghan capital.
“We have a small batch of people leaving now as we speak. A majority of the staff are ready to leave,” a US official told Reuters.”The embassy continues to function.”
Chinook Helicopters were filmed leaving the embassy compound. Two US military officials told the Associated Press that smoke could be seen rising from the roof of the building as officials destroyed sensitive documents.
#BREAKING | U.S. RUSHES IN TROOPS, AIRCRAFT SEEN IN KABUL
As the U.S. sends more troops into #Afghanistan's #Kabul to evacuate its nationals, Boeing CH-47 #Chinook helicopters could be seen taking off and landing near the diplomatic outpost in #Kabul today.#AfghanistanCrisis pic.twitter.com/7J7GrD4R6z
— Mirror Now (@MirrorNow) August 15, 2021
Earlier, the Taliban captured the city of Jalalabad, the capital of the Nangarhar province and one of the biggest cities in the country, the Associated Press news agency reported on Sunday, citing a regional lawmaker.
A local resident told the Agence France-Presse news agency that the city was seized without any resistance. After the fall of Jalalabad, Kabul remains the only big city in Afghanistan controlled by an internationally recognized government.
Afghanistan is seeing a spike in violence now as the Taliban have stepped up their offensive after international troops started a gradual withdrawal from the country, scheduled to be completed by September 11. The pullout was stipulated in the agreement the Taliban and the United States signed in Doha in February 2020.
According to Iran’s IRIB broadcaster, the Taliban control 90 percent of Afghanistan.
B-52 Bombers Against Taliban
Prior to deploying the Chinooks for evacuation, the US had recently deployed its ‘omnipotent’ B-52 bombers, Reaper drones, and Spectre gunships to check the marauding Taliban, who has made a significant advance in recent days, capturing key cities in Afghanistan.
With less than a month left for the September 11 deadline, the number of US troops has reduced to 650 from a whopping 98,000 back in 2011, according to the US Department of Defense. Amid the withdrawal of western militaries, the Taliban has tightened its grip across the region.
US B-52 Airstrike on #Taliban stations.#Kandahar #Afghanistan pic.twitter.com/hqrGlX84BM
— Pakistan First 🇵🇰🇵🇸 (@RotiKapraa) August 8, 2021
The US has drawn flak from various countries including the UK and arch-rivals China and Russia over the manner in which has withdrawn troops from the war-torn country.
Washinton had earlier said it would retain a section of its military personnel at a base closer to Afghanistan so that it could continue its operations against the Taliban and other terrorist organizations in the Middle East.
It was widely reported that the US had requested Pakistan and a few Central Asian nations to allow it to set up a military base. However, Pakistan’s National Security Adviser Moeed Yusuf said that no US official asked for a military base in the country and rejected reports that the American military was seeking bases in Pakistan.
Although US President Joe Biden has set a September 11 deadline to conclude the troop pullout mission, American defense officials had earlier stated that there was every intention to continue with the airstrikes after that date, but clearly seems to be missing as most of the foreign nations have pulled out from the war-ravaged nation.
The B-52 Bombers
The Taliban had warned the United States against any further interference in the Afghan internal affairs, a spokesperson for the movement’s Political Office told Al Jazeera broadcaster.
The B-52 Stratofortress bombers launched airstrikes on the Taliban forces in the capital of the Jawzjan province, Sheberghan, in northern Afghanistan, killing over 200 militants.
“We are warning against the US interference in Afghanistan,” the spokesperson for the Taliban Political Office said, stressing that no intra-Afghan ceasefire had been reached. He also accused the Afghan government of escalating the tensions in the country by launching operations in several provinces.
The B-52 ‘Stratofortress’ is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber, that possesses the capacity to carry up to 32 tonnes of bombs.
Designed and built by US aerospace giant Boeing in 1952, the B-52 is also known as “BUFF” (Big Ugly Fat Fella). The bombers first flew during the Cold War and played a key role in toppling the Taliban from power in late 2001, according to Arab News.
US B-52 bombers attack Taliban positions in Afghanistan https://t.co/dobLt4S3Z7 pic.twitter.com/i8PuUhnOeL
— The National (@TheNationalNews) August 8, 2021
Boeing emphasizes the importance of the United States’ multirole historic bomber which has had a combat history in the Vietnam War, the Persian Gulf War, the Bosnian and Kosovo conflict, the Afghanistan war and the air campaign against Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), The Eurasian Times earlier reported.
B-52s have not been used in Afghanistan for nearly a year, according to The Times.
According to the US government’s new defense strategy, B-52 bombers will be used in Afghanistan in order to cooperate with the Afghan government and military. The US is also using armed Reaper drones and AC-130 Spectre gunships, and at least five missions are being flown each day.
The Boeing B52 is often called the most dangerous bomber of the 20th century. It is considered the most combat-capable bomber in the US inventory, providing the country with immediate nuclear and conventional strike capability. It has been in operation with the United States Air Force since the 1950s.
The B-52 bombers flew from bases on Guam, Okinawa and Thailand, carrying out highly destructive bombing campaigns over North and South Vietnam in 1965. Certain versions were used to attack North Vietnam, with even greater fuel capacity and equipped to launch a number of air-to-surface and anti-ship missiles.
— Written by Anshruta Banerjee