Only weeks before the U.S. was scheduled to finalize its complete withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Biden administration has ordered another 3,000 troops back to the country to help evacuate the American embassy in Kabul, the Associated Press reported on Thursday.
Chief Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. would be sending three infantry battalions from the Marine Corps and Army to the airport to assist with security and to help process the departure of embassy personnel.
In addition, Kirby noted, 3,500-4,000 troops from a combat brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division are set to be dispatched to Kuwait as a reserve force. They will be on standby in case more than 3,000 are needed at the Kabul airport.
Another 1,000 Army and Air Force troops are being sent to Qatar to facilitate the processing of Special Immigrant Visa applications from Afghans who previously worked for the U.S. government and feel threatened by Taliban forces.
The move comes in response to the Taliban's rapid takeover of the country. By earlier this week, the radical Islamist group had taken over 65% of Afghanistan, occupying at least eight provincial capitals and quickly approaching others, including Kabul.
On Thursday, Taliban forces captured Kandahar, the country's second-largest city and the birthplace of the Islamist group's movement. Defense officials now estimate that the country could fall to the Taliban within months.
But despite the rapid sweep, President Joe Biden remains "adamant" about ending the nearly two-decade war in Afghanistan, according to the AP. The U.S. had pared down the number of troops stationed in the country to just 650 before the latest move.
Likewise, Kirby insisted the renewed dispatch of troops does not mean the U.S. is re-entering combat with the Taliban.
He told reporters at the Pentagon, "This is a temporary mission with a narrow focus."
Nevertheless, the AP described the move as "a sign of waning confidence in the Afghan government's ability to hold off the Taliban surge." It appears to be a foregone conclusion that Afghan forces will be unable to hold.
It's a stark change of tone from last month, when Biden declared that it was "not inevitable" that Taliban forces would take over the country once the U.S. left.
"The mission hasn't failed," Biden maintained, adding that "the likelihood there's going to be a Taliban overrunning everything and owning the whole country is highly unlikely."