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Amid the rapid advance of the Taliban, the U.S. embassy in Kabul has called on all American citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately, even offering them a cash loan for plane tickets if necessary.
“The U.S. Embassy urges U.S. citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately using available commercial flight options,” a security alert from the diplomatic outpost stated on Thursday. The diplomatic representation even offered loans to Americans unable to afford plane tickets home, as well as assistance with immigrant visas for foreign family members.
The alert was released shortly after the Taliban claimed to have captured Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second-largest city. Earlier Thursday, the armed group claimed victory in the city of Ghazni, 150km (95 miles) from the capital city. Ghazni is becomes the 10th Afghan provincial capital to fall to the Taliban since the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan began in May.
The U.S. withdrawal will be complete by the end of August, while U.S. intelligence officials predict that the Taliban may take control the capital sometime within the next several weeks to six months, according to a report released by the Washington Post earlier this week.
While several hundred U.S. troops remain stationed in Kabul, at the embassy and the city’s airport, embassy employees who can perform their work remotely were already told in April to leave, with the State Department citing “increasing violence and threat reports.”
BREAKING: The U.S. is sending troops into Afghanistan to help evacuate some personnel from the embassy in Kabul, an official says, as security rapidly deteriorates in the country. https://t.co/CS74DyxGbf
Without U.S. support, Afghanistan’s military has quickly withered in the face of the Taliban's advance. Troops posted at the country’s borders have been driven out to neighboring countries, whereas on Thursday, the U.S. embassy in Kabul stated that surrendering Afghan troops have been executed, and their military and civilian leaders unlawfully detained by Taliban forces.
Now that most of their troops are gone, all that the US has in its arsenal are strongly worded statements. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, for example, received critiques on Wednesday for calling on the Taliban to reach a peaceful settlement with the Afghan government, saying that should assess “what they want their role to be in the international community.”
US-mediated peace talks are currently underway in Qatar, yet President Ashraf Ghani's spokesman told Bloomberg Monday that the Taliban is only interested in “trying to grab power by force." Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Axios on Wednesday, however, that the group has “never yielded to any foreign pressure tactics before and we do not plan to capitulate any time soon either.”