President Biden on Saturday authorized the deployment of 5,000 troops to Afghanistan amid a U.S. pullout that has emboldened the Taliban to take over multiple cities.
"I have authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 US troops to make sure we can have an orderly and safe drawdown of US 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," Biden said in a statement.
That amounts to 1,000 more military personnel than originally had been announced, a Defense official said Saturday.
Biden and his administration have remained steadfast that it was time for the United States to continue to close the book on the 20-year war, and for Afghanistan to fight for itself.
“Afghan leaders have to come together,” he told reporters at the White House on Tuesday. “We lost thousands to death and injury, thousands of American personnel. They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation."
But the rapid advance of the Taliban, sometimes with the use of American equipment left behind, has Biden recalibrating that stance.
"I have ordered our armed forces and our intelligence community to ensure that we will maintain the capability and the vigilance to address future terrorist threats from Afghanistan," he said.
Biden on Saturday warned the Taliban that any actions that put U.S. personnel at risk "will be met with a swift and strong US military response."
The United States will, at the same time, pursue a political settlement to the bloodshed, he said.
Ambassador Tracey Jacobson has been placed in charge of the U.S. effort to relocate Afghan special immigrant visa applicants and other Afghan allies, the president said.
"Our hearts go out to the brave Afghan men and women who are now at risk," he said. "We are working to evacuate thousands of those who helped our cause and their families."
The president's authorization includes 3,000 troops ordered earlier this week to help with the pullout, 1,000 existing troops providing security at the embassy and at Kabul's airport, and an additional 1,000 troops that will assist with assist with the withdrawal of most staff from the embassy in Kabul, a Defense Department official said.
The president's actions came as the Taliban captured Mazar-e-Sharif, a key city in the north of Afghanistan.
The first American troops began what the Pentagon described as a limited mission to evacuate American embassy workers.
Retired U.S. Army Col. Jack Jacobs, an MSNBC military analyst, said Saturday that embassy evacuees are likely to be safe because U.S. air defenses would be certain and severe against incursion.
“It’s likely they won’t attack American troops as we’re trying to evacuate the embassy,” he said.