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The United States sent choppers to evacuate diplomats from its embassy in Kabul on Sunday as Taliban insurgents encircled the Afghan capital and demanded a peaceful transfer of power.
The US has warned the Taliban of a “swift and decisive response” if it were to interfere with the American personnel, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“We’ve known all along … that the Taliban was at its greatest position of strength at any time since 2001… That is the Taliban that we inherited. And we saw that they were very much capable of going on the offensive and beginning to take back the country”, Blinken added.
He said the embassy staff was being relocated to Kabul Airport as the US was working to make sure that the diplomats were safe and secure.
“It’s why we had forces on hand to make sure we could do this in a safe and orderly fashion. The compound itself, folks are leaving there and going to the airport”, Blinken told ABC.
© REUTERS / STRINGER
A military helicopter carrying Afghan President Ashraf Ghani prepares to land near the parliament in Kabul, Afghanistan August 2, 2021
The diplomat insisted that the American mission to stop attacks on the US from Afghanistan was successful, and shot down comparisons between the Kabul chaos and the 1975 capture of Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, by the People’s Army of Vietnam.
At the same time, Reuters reported, citing sources, that most of the US staff will be evacuated in the coming day or two.
Earlier on Sunday, diplomats were being ferried by helicopter to the airport from the embassy in Kabul, located in the heavily fortified Green Zone in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighbourhood. The Joe Biden administration has deployed 5,000 American troops to help with the evacuations after the Taliban’s surge brought the terrorist group to Kabul in a matter of days.
The comparison to Vietnam emerged after US President Joe Biden stated last month that the Afghan Army could handle the Taliban.
“The Taliban is not the North Vietnamese army. They’re not remotely comparable in terms of capability. There’s going to be no circumstance where you see people being lifted off the roof of the embassy of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable”, he said.
© REUTERS / EVELYN HOCKSTEIN
U.S. President Joe Biden meets virtually with governors, mayors, and other state and local elected officials to discuss the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, in the South Court Auditorium at the White House in Washington, U.S., August 11, 2021.
The statement, however, may not be so reassuring, as the militants have already managed to seize 90 percent of Afghanistan’s territory and all the borders, establishing control over all major cities in the country except for Kabul.
When they started their offensive on the capital, the mass evacuations of diplomats began, and images of a helicopter collecting people from the roof of the US Embassy emerged online, bearing an uncanny resemblance to the infamous photos depicting the evacuation of Americans from Saigon in 1975.