The United States announced on Thursday it is further reducing staff at its embassy in Kabul after the Taliban seized additional territory from government forces.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the U.S. would be cutting down “to a core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan” at the embassy within the coming weeks and the Pentagon will beef up security at Hamid Karzai International Airport with additional troops to secure the facility as staffers leave the country.
“Let me be very clear about this: The embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghansitan,” Price told reporters.
“The United States will continue to support consular services and that includes the processing and operations of the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program, and we’ll continue to engage in diplomacy with the Afghan government.”
The Taliban took control of the Afghan National Army’s 217th Pamir Corps headquarters and airport in the strategically important northern Afghanistan province of Kunduz earlier Thursday, forcing soldiers to flee, a government official confirmed.
The hardline group seized all of the facility’s weapons and ammunition and separately took Ghazni in central Afghanistan from government forces, making it the 10th provincial capital to fall to them.
Ghazni, situated on the route between Kabul and Kandahar, was taken over by the Taliban without a gunfight, said an official, requesting anonymity due to not being authorized to speak with the media. He added that all local government officials, including the provincial governor, have apparently fled to Kabul.
Ghazni lies just 150 kilometers (93 miles) from Kabul.
Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry in Kabul claimed to have killed 326 Taliban members in the last 24 hours in ground and air offensives against the insurgents.