US officials are actively updating emergency evacuation plans for the US embassy in Kabul, as concerns grow about the potential for escalating violence in the country while US troops near a complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to a US official and another source familiar with the planning.
The State Department is constantly revising the emergency plans for US embassies worldwide, but the updates are even more urgent and intense in the case of the embassy in Kabul given the changing US military posture and the increased Taliban offenses in the country, the sources said.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the stepped up evacuation planning.
One major factor that has impacted the planning is the departure of all US forces from Bagram Air Base because it means that the State Department can’t rely on those resources in the case of a crisis.
In addition to bolstering the physical embassy security with US marines and contractors on the ground, there are now assets and troops in the region — including at the airport in Kabul and in nearby countries like Qatar — that are ready to assist if there is a need for an evacuation, the sources said.
The State Department works with the Pentagon to develop the overall security plan and the contingency planning for noncombatant evacuations.
As of Saturday afternoon, there was no current need for an evacuation from the embassy in Kabul, the sources added. But the plans are detailed and extensive so that they can be quickly implemented if necessary.
Earlier this week, the Taliban said in a statement that civilian and non-military foreign nationals, diplomats, embassies and workers of humanitarian organizations would not face any problems or security risks from them.
“They may continue their diplomatic work and humanitarian activities per normal routine. As far as it is related to the Islamic Emirate, we have fulfilled our responsibility regarding their safety,” the statement said.
But there are reasons to question that statement, particularly given the fractured nature of the Taliban.
In response to the Taliban statement, the State Department said this week that it continues “to call for an end to ongoing violence, driven largely by the Taliban. A negotiated settlement between the Islamic Republic and the Taliban is the only way to end 40 years of war and bring Afghans the peace they seek.”
“We urge the sides to engage in serious negotiations to determine a political roadmap for Afghanistan’s future that leads to a just and durable settlement,” the department said.
The US remains engaged in dialogue with the Taliban, but those talks have not manifested in any successful peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.