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Marines Prepare for Possible Evacuation of Americans in Afghanistan

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In the Biden administration’s aspirational plan for Afghanistan, none of this was supposed to happen — at least not so quickly. President Biden announced in April that American troops would withdraw from the country by Sept. 11; he later moved that date up to Aug. 31, and most of the troops have left. The president insisted that the Afghan government and military, with financial support from the United States, would be responsible for defending the country’s urban areas from the Taliban.

But since the announcement, the Taliban have rolled across city after city, despite having only around 75,000 fighters compared with the American-trained Afghan security forces’ 300,000 troops. That dichotomy has caused frustration in the Pentagon and among American officials, who have repeatedly said that the Afghan troops, if their backs were to the wall, would rally to defeat the Taliban.

“They have a lot of advantages that the Taliban don’t have,” Mr. Kirby said, referring to Afghanistan’s national security forces. “Taliban doesn’t have an air force, Taliban doesn’t own airspace. They have a lot of advantages. Now, they have to use those advantages.”

But President Ashraf Ghani’s administration has failed to carry out any kind of strategy to defend what cities that remain or retake them despite saying he would do so. Pro-government militia forces, championed by Afghan officials and reminiscent of the bloody civil war of the 1990s, have consistently been unable to push the Taliban back.

On Wednesday, Mr. Ghani replaced the country’s army chief and appointed a new commander of the military’s commando units, in what has amounted to one of his most public moves yet to contend with the Taliban offensive, which has taken more than half of Afghanistan’s roughly 400 districts.

The American military, for its part, is still supporting, to some degree, Afghanistan’s government forces with airstrikes. But those strikes have largely been limited to the southern part of the country, around Kandahar. That is because of logistics: Now that the United States has withdrawn from Bagram Air Base in the north and has hauled away its warplanes and their huge support systems, it is harder to reach the north. Such strikes could require aerial refueling and would have other logistical hurdles that make them harder to conduct.

This content was originally published here.

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