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'Not an Evacuation,' Insists State Department as Pentagon Sends 3,000 Troops to Evacuate U.S. Personnel

AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

During Thursday's State Department Press Briefing, spokesman Ned Price said that the "increased tempo" of the Taliban's offensive is "of grave concern" but sought to tamp down assertions that a reduction of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Kabul is an evacuation as the Taliban closes in on Afghanistan's capital and the Pentagon readies an airlift.

Characterizing the reduction in embassy staff as a continuation of April's ordered departure that is resulting in fewer civilian personnel while leaving just a core diplomatic presence on the ground, Price struggled to make a convincing argument that the Afghan people could be confident in its partnership with the United States.

Price insisted the "overall status has not changed" at the embassy in Kabul which "remains open" — albeit with a smaller staff — as more civilian diplomatic staff prepare to leave Kabul through what increasingly appears to be a hastily planned evacuation.

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby confirmed Thursday that it is "trying to get" 3,000 additional personnel to Kabul "as soon as possible" to assist with the departure of civilian diplomatic personnel as it expects the military will be "required" to carry out an airlift as part of what he called a "safe and orderly reduction." In addition, the Pentagon will prepare a few thousand other troops nearby "if they're needed... to provide safety and secure movement" of Americans out of Afghanistan, setting up a situation that parallels the 1975 fall of Saigon.

"Nobody is abandoning Afghanistan — it's not walking away from it," insisted Kirby.

Back at the State Department, Price explained the United States "will continue to press forward in every way we can with the diplomacy."

"The message we are sending to the people of Afghanistan is one of enduring partnership," Price added, saying "the United States will be a committed partner to the people of Afghanistan," though he couldn't offer specifics other than said partnership can be "measured...in a number of ways."

"This is not abandonment, this is not an evacuation," Price insisted just hours after the U.S. Embassy in Kabul issued a security alert urging all Americans in Afghanistan to leave the country "immediately."

The United States will continue to "press for a reduction of violence and a cease-fire," Price said, pointing to a "broad and inclusive constellation" of other countries that "came together and agreed that the peace process in Afghanistan needs to be accelerated" and "will not recognize any government that is imposed through military force." The Biden administration, Price said, is "doing everything we can" to create an Afghanistan that affords its citizens safety but admitted diplomacy "has not achieved what we want to see achieved."

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