President Joe Biden said he authorized the deployment of 5,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan to assist with the final weeks of the withdrawal of American personnel from the country as Taliban fighters took control of multiple cities and approached the capital of Kabul.
Biden said the decision — a significant increase over a 3,000-person deployment of Marines and soldiers announced earlier this week — was made after consultation with diplomatic, military and intelligence officials.
The effort was intended “to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of U.S. personnel and other allied personnel and an orderly and safe evacuation of Afghans who helped our troops during our mission and those at special risk from the Taliban advance,” the president said in a statement Saturday.
The fall of a series of major cities across Afghanistan in recent days has prompted criticism and concern over Biden’s plans to draw down the U.S. military presence in the country by the end of the month. Afghans that supported the U.S. are expressing alarm for their safety as the Taliban seized power.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said in a televised speech earlier Saturday that regrouping the country’s military, which has opted against putting up a fight in some cities and towns, was a top priority. He warned that Afghanistan is in serious danger of instability.
Biden said he ordered Secretary of State Antony Blinken to support Ghani and other Afghan leaders, as well as engage with regional stakeholders. He said he also asked U.S. military and intelligence leaders to ensure that terrorist threats from Afghanistan could be addressed even after the withdrawal, and that the administration had warned Taliban representatives in Doha that any action that put U.S. personnel at risk would “be met with a swift and strong U.S. military response.”
Biden, who is spending the weekend at Camp David, again defended his decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan.
“One more year, or five more years, of U.S. military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country,” Biden said. “And an endless American presence in the middle of another country’s civil conflict was not acceptable to me.”