President Joe Biden on Sunday afternoon authorized another 1,000 American forces to deploy to Kabul to help with a massive evacuation effort of American civilians and employees, as well as Afghan allies, as the Taliban declared victory.
The additional 1,000 forces comes after Biden ordered another 1,000 on Saturday, on top of an initial 3,000 forces to join those at the Hamid Karzai International Airport, bringing the total number of U.S. forces in Kabul up to around 6,000.
The first 3,000 to the airport consisted of two Marine infantry battalions, as well as some “enablers” that were already in the region. The second and third batch of 1,000 each deployed from the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg.
The Pentagon confirmed the deployment in a statement on Sunday: “The Secretary [of Defense Lloyd Austin] authorized today the addition of another battalion of the 82nd Airborne to Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul. That will bring the total forces, once in place, to approximately 6,000.”
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said in a statement to Breitbart News:
We continue to monitor the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan. We remain focused on the mission assigned to us: to facilitate the safe drawdown of civilian personnel from the U.S. Embassy and out of the country and to protect operations at the airport to support this drawdown and other evacuation flights. That is what Secretary Austin made clear to our commanders throughout the day.
We are continuing to refine our processes and organization at the airport, including pre-staging people for movement, while improving our defenses.
U.S. Forces have now assumed responsibilities for air traffic control at the airport, supported by Afghan counterparts. Commercial traffic continues, though it has experienced some sporadic stoppages and delay.
As we have made clear, this is a narrowly-defined mission to safeguard the movement of civilians out of Kabul. Any threat posed to the mission will be taken seriously—and any attack on our people or on our operation will be met forcefully.
There is still an additional 1,000 soldiers from Bragg stationed nearby in Kuwait on standby, as well as an additional 1,000 joint Army-Air Force element in Qatar to help with the processing of Afghan refugees.
The deployment of additional forces came after the U.S. ambassador fled the Embassy with the American flag for the airport. It also came after the embassy reported that the airport was “taking fire,” and warned Americans to “shelter in place.”
There were scenes of chaos and reports of injuries at the airport as panicked Afghan families tried to board military planes leaving the capital. Meanwhile, the Taliban entered the presidential palace and declared victory in the 20-plus year civil war with the U.S.-backed government. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had fled earlier in the day, saying that he wanted to avoid bloodshed in the capital.
The Pentagon and State Department also released a joint statement earlier Sunday:
At present we are completing a series of steps to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport to enable the safe departure of U.S. and allied personnel from Afghanistan via civilian and military flights. Over the next 48 hours, we will have expanded our security presence to nearly 6,000 troops, with a mission focused solely on facilitating these efforts and will be taking over air traffic control. Tomorrow and over the coming days, we will be transferring out of the country thousands of American citizens who have been resident in Afghanistan, as well as locally employed staff of the U.S. mission in Kabul and their families and other particularly vulnerable Afghan nationals. And we will accelerate the evacuation of thousands of Afghans eligible for U.S. Special Immigrant Visas, nearly 2,000 of whom have already arrived in the United States over the past two weeks. For all categories, Afghans who have cleared security screening will continue to be transferred directly to the United States. And we will find additional locations for those yet to be screened.