UNITED STATES: U.S. troops have begun arriving in Afghanistan to help secure the evacuation of embassy staff and thousands of Afghans who worked for them as a sweeping Taliban offensive draws ever nearer to Kabul, the Pentagon said on Friday.
On Friday, militants captured Pul-e-Alam, capital of Loghar province, just 80km (50 miles) from the capital Kabul. The UN chief said the situation was spinning out of control and devastating the lives of civilians.
More than 250,000 people have been forced to leave their homes so far.
The Taliban advance comes at a time when the U.S. and other foreign troops withdraw after 20 years of military operations.
Also on Friday, the Taliban seized the country’s second-largest city Kandahar and the nearby city of Lashkar Gah, as well as Herat in the west. They now control about a third of Afghanistan’s provincial capitals.
Most of the 3,000 troops being sent to help evacuate both U.S. diplomatic staff and Afghan nationals, will arrive by the end of the weekend. The U.S .intends to airlift thousands of people a day out of Kabul.
Meanwhile, the U.S. embassy staff in Kabul have been ordered to begin destroying “sensitive material,” including items featuring embassy logos, documents and equipment such as the American flag that could possibly be used in propaganda.
The U.K., which is sending 600 troops to aid the evacuation of British nationals and former Afghan staff, said staffing at its embassy would be reduced to an absolute minimum. Earlier on Friday, many countries including Germany, Spain, Norway and the Netherlands announced the withdrawal of staff from their respective embassies.
The latest U.S. intelligence assessment suggests the militants could try to advance on the national capital within 30 days. If trends continue, the Taliban are likely to gain full control of the country in months, it says.
UN Secretary General António Guterres called on the Taliban to end the fighting and urged: “Every day the conflict is taking an even bigger toll on women and children. Continued urban conflict will mean continued carnage with civilians paying the highest price.”
Food and medical supplies are dwindling and critical infrastructure including schools and clinics has been destroyed, he said. The UN has appealed to neighbouring countries to keep their borders open, to allow people to reach safety.