Biden Sends Another 1,000 Troops to Secure Evacuation as Taliban Advance in Afghanistan
Rerouted 82nd Airborne battalion will bring total U.S. force there to 5,000.
President Joe Biden is sending an additional 1,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division to Kabul as Taliban victories across Afghanistan have added urgency to efforts to get thousands of Americans and Afghan citizens out of the country’s capital.
The extra battalion will bring the total number of U.S. troops the president has deployed to defend Hamid Karzai International Airport and the U.S. embassy to 5,000.
“The President approved this morning Secretary Austin’s recommendation that we also flow in the lead battalion of the 82nd Airborne Brigade Combat Team – roughly 1,000 troops – to assist with the State Department’s drawdown,” a defense official said on the condition they not be identified.
In a statement on Saturday, Biden said he authorized the additional forces “to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance.”
The president’s decision to hasten the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan has been criticized for creating the dire security situation Afghanistan now faces, with Taliban controlling the majority of Afghanistan’s provinces and those forces quickly moving to isolate the capital as U.S.-trained Afghan security forces surrender or flee.
In his statement, Biden outlined why he was committed to the withdrawal. He said it would not make a difference if U.S. forces stayed one more year or five, if the Afghans are not willing to fight themselves.
“Over our country’s 20 years at war in Afghanistan, America has sent its finest young men and women, invested nearly $1 trillion, trained over 300,000 Afghan soldiers and police, equipped them with state-of-the-art military equipment, and maintained their air force as part of the longest war in U.S. history,” Biden said.
“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country. And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me,” he said.
The 5,000 U.S. troops in Kabul on the ground include roughly 650 that were initially sent to help protect the international airport and assist the hundreds of U.S. Marines assigned to protect the embassy; another 3,000 forces set to arrive this weekend, comprised of three U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps infantry battalions; and 1,000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
A total of 3,500 soldiers from the 82nd had already been put on orders to get to Kuwait to be on hand as backup if needed; 1,000 of them got new orders to re-route directly to Kabul.
“The remaining two battalions of that Brigade Combat Team will stage in Kuwait as a ready reserve,” the defense official said.