Pentagon braces for Kabul to fall to Taliban

An Air Force HH-60G Pave Hawk aircrew conducts a training mission during Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel operations at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, March 13, 2018. The aircrew is assigned to the 33rd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Gregory Brook)

Amid the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanstan, the Defense Department is bracing for a Taliban assault on the capital, Kabul, within weeks that could put American diplomatic personnel in jeopardy.

State Department spokesman Ned Rice said Thursday at a Pentagon news conference that about 3,000 U.S. troops will temporarily deploy to assist the withdrawal of American diplomats.

Earlier Thursday, the Taliban seized the city Ghazni, less than 100 miles from Kabul, the 12th provincial capital it has taken over in the past six days.

The Pentagon’s move comes amid reports that Taliban terrorists are executing Afghan troops left behind by the U.S. to prevent the country from being overrun.

A U.S. Defense official, citing intelligence reports, told Reuters that Taliban fighters could isolate Afghanistan’s capital in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90.

Several hundred U.S. troops are protecting the embassy and additional forces are guarding the strategically vital international airport. But the Defense Department’s new plan suggests the Biden administration believes that level of security may not be sufficient to defend against a potential Taliban attack, the Washington Times reported.

Price was asked what kind of message the Taliban should take from the withdrawal.

“We are in no way abandoning the people of Afghanistan. Far from it. We are going to continue doing everything we can,” he said.

Seeking assurances from the Taliban

The New York Times reported American negotiators, led by Zalmay Khalilzad, were seeking assurances from the Taliban that it will not go after the U.S. Embassy if it overtakes Kabul. The embassy has 4,000 employees, including, 1,400 Americans.

Khalilzad is trying to convince the Taliban that it must keep its hands off the embassy if it hopes to receive any American aid as part of a future Afghan government, the New York Times reported.

The Biden State Department has blamed the Trump administration for the current situation, contending a flawed agreement with the Taliban presented President Biden no “viable option” other than to withdraw, the Washington Examiner reported Monday.

Trump said in a statement Thursday he “personally had discussions with top Taliban leaders whereby they understood what they were doing now would not be acceptable.”

“It would have been a much different and much more successful withdrawal, and the Taliban understood that better than anyone,” he said.

Retired Gen. Jack Keane, who served as U.S. Army vice chief of staff, said Thursday on Fox News that it’s a “humiliating” and “very frustrating” day for the United States.

He told anchor Bret Baier “there have been some serious miscalculations made here.”

“Just a few weeks ago, the president was claiming that the Taliban cannot take over the country, the Afghan security forces are going to be able to stand up against it,” Keane noted.

“Obviously what’s unfolded before our eyes is quite the opposite.”

Keane said the primary reason for the Taliban resurgence is the U.S. pulling away the air support that protected ground troops.

Baier brought up the point that the war has gone on for two decades.

“That’s a valid point to make,” Keane acknowledged, “we’ve been there 20 years.”

But Keane quicked added that the U.S. is there “because we’re involved in a multigenerational war against radical Islam that doesn’t have an end date that I’m aware of.”

‘Disaster in the making’

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina has put the blame on Biden for setting a withdrawal deadline.

“If President Biden doesn’t have any regrets about his decision to withdraw all forces from Afghanistan, he is completely blind to the consequences his decision has on U.S. national security,” Graham wrote Thursday on Twitter.

One month ago, the senator said that while Biden “may have set a deadline to end the war with al-Qaeda and ISIS in Afghanistan,” unfortunately for the United States “al-Qaeda and ISIS don’t have deadlines when it comes to attacking American interests.”

“It is important to remember that President Biden’s Afghanistan decision to withdraw all forces was made against sound military advice – just like he and President Obama did in Iraq,” he said in a July 8 statement. “It is clear to me that President Biden has learned nothing from their Iraq withdrawal debacle. That decision led to the rise of ISIS.”

Graham said Biden “does not understand conditions are developing in Afghanistan for a reemergence of al-Qaeda and ISIS which will directly threaten the American homeland and our allies.”

“Get ready for major upheaval as this decision by President Biden is a disaster in the making,” he said.

‘Orderly and safe reduction’

On Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Price said the military “will be there to help affect an orderly and safe reduction in our personnel.”

He said the U.S. Embassy remains open, but he refused to say if the entire diplomatic mission would be moved to the airport.

“We are always evaluating the situation on the ground. We are planning for all contingencies,” he said. “The embassy remains open in its current location. I’m not going to entertain hypotheticals from that.”

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