CNN: US Embassy in Kabul Tells Staff to Destroy Sensitive Document
By Staff, Agencies
The US embassy in Afghanistan's capital has directed its staff to destroy sensitive documents and computers as well as other material that could be used against the United States, according to American media outlets.
The directive was given in a memo written for staff at the US embassy in Kabul and shared with NPR on the condition of anonymity.
The memo called on diplomats to destroy computers and other sensitive documents before they leave, as well as items featuring the American flag, embassy logos, and other articles that "could be misused in propaganda efforts," CNN reported.
The memo comes as the Taliban are reportedly preparing to attack Kabul. It also comes one day after the Pentagon announced it was deploying 3,000 American troops to Afghanistan to evacuate most of the embassy personnel from Kabul, leaving only "a core diplomatic presence" in the country.
"Let me be very clear about this: The embassy remains open and we plan to continue our diplomatic work in Afghanistan," Ned Price, the State Department's chief spokesman, said Thursday.
The Biden administration announced on Thursday that it will evacuate all but a “core” staff from the American Embassy in Kabul.
The US military is deploying 3,000 troops back to Afghanistan to help with the evacuation. They will be stationed at the Kabul airport.
“We're taking the situation seriously and that's one of the reasons why we're moving these forces into Kabul to assist with this particular mission because we know that time is a precious commodity,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said on Friday.
He confirmed the US is deploying troops around the Kabul airport, adding that the US military is prepared to airlift “thousands” of people, who include both American diplomats and Afghans who have applied for Special Immigrant Visas.
The Pentagon said on Friday the Taliban’s rapid takeover of large parts of Afghanistan is “deeply concerning” to the United States after the militants seized the country’s second-and third-biggest cities.
According to reports, the possibility the capital Kabul could fall in the next weeks has grown stronger with the Taliban's gains, and that the fall of the government in Kabul could happen much more quickly than previously anticipated.
Kirby acknowledged the Taliban are trying to isolate Kabul. “We are certainly concerned by the speed with which the Taliban has been moving,” Kirby told reporters.
“We're obviously watching this just like you're watching this and seeing it happen in real-time, and it's deeply concerning,” he added. “This is a moment for the Afghans to unite, the leadership and the military. No outcome has to be inevitable.”
Nonetheless, CNN also reported that the US could possibly move several thousands of Afghans who worked with American forces to Qatar, amid the Taliban's seizure of the country, citing an unnamed official from the State Department.
The source said that a possible agreement is still under discussion, but if it is approved, roughly 8,000 Afghanistan citizens would be moved to Qatar’s capital of Doha.
"We are evaluating all available options. We have no announcements to make on third-country relocation sites for Afghan SIV applicants," the source said.
In addition, Canada announced that it is preparing to launch a "special immigration program to welcome over 20,000 vulnerable Afghan refugees, in total."
Earlier in the week, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that 1,000 American military members from a joint Army-Air Force support team were sent to Qatar to assist local authorities in accepting Afghan applicants with immigration visas.
The US invaded Afghanistan in October 2001 and removed the Taliban from power. American forces occupied the country for about 20 years on the pretext of fighting against the Taliban. But as the US forces are leaving Afghanistan, the Taliban are set to invade Kabul, weakened by foreign occupation.
The Taliban on Friday solidified its sweep through Afghanistan’s north, south, and west weeks before the official end of the US military occupation of the country. The Taliban now control most of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals and about two-thirds of the country as a whole.
On Friday, the Taliban claimed control of the capital of Logar province, putting them just about 80 kilometers away from Kabul, the capital of the country.
Kirby claimed that the Afghan capital is “not, right now, in an imminent threat environment.”
Still, Kirby said, the Taliban “clearly” is “trying to isolate Kabul.”
“What they want to do if they achieve that isolation, I think, only they can speak to,” he added. “But you can see a certain effort to isolate Kabul. It is not unlike the way they've operated in other places of the country, isolating provincial capitals and sometimes being able to force surrender without necessarily much bloodshed.”
Kirby also stated that Afghan forces still have the capacity to repel the Taliban attack.
“They have greater numbers. They have an air force. A capable air force, which, oh, by the way, is flying more airstrikes than we are, every day. They have modern equipment. They have an organizational structure. They have the benefit of the training that we have provided them over 20 years. They have the material, the physical, the tangible advantages,” Kirby said. “It's time now to use those advantages.”
The Taliban has been pushing back the Afghan military and overtaking significant areas of territory as American troops withdraw from the country following 20 years of war there.
An Afghan government official confirmed on Friday that Kandahar, the most important city in the south, was under the control of the Taliban as occupying forces complete their withdrawal.