Washington: The State Department on Tuesday ordered a significant number of its remaining staff at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to leave Afghanistan as the military steps up the pullout of American troops from the country.
The department said it had instructed all personnel to depart unless their jobs require them to be physically located in Afghanistan. The order was not specific as to the number of people affected, but it went well beyond the usual curtailment of staffers for security and safety reasons. Such orders normally apply only to non-essential personnel.
In an updated travel advisory for Afghanistan, the department said it had ordered the departure of all U.S. government employees “whose functions can be performed elsewhere.” It also said American citizens should not travel to Afghanistan and those there who want to depart “should leave as soon as possible on available commercial flights.”
The State Department order came just two days after America’s top general in Afghanistan said the U.S. military had begun closing down operations in the country and that Afghanistan’s security forces had to be ready to take over.
General Austin Miller said that although the withdrawal of 2,500 to 3,500 troops from Washington and 7,000 allied forces from NATO began on May 1, the withdrawal has already begun.
He said that the US military and NATO will deliver some military equipment to Afghanistan, and at the same time decide what will remain with the Afghan defense and security forces.
In February last year, the US military began to close its smaller bases. The Biden administration announced in mid-April that the final phase of the withdrawal will begin on May 1 and be completed by September 11.