Afghanistan: Biden sends more troops into Kabul to help repatriation mission as Taliban near

Taliban forces are fast approaching Kabul as Western forces rush to repatriate personnel, as ITV News Correspondent Marc Mallett reports

President Biden has sent a further 1,000 troops into Kabul to help repatriate US personnel as the Taliban draw closer to the Afghan capital.

It brings the total number of US military personnel left in Afghanistan to 5,000.

On Saturday, the Taliban captured Mazar-e-Sharif - a large, heavily defended city in northern Afghanistan - in a major setback for the government.

The insurgents now have control over all of northern Afghanistan, confining the Western-backed government to the centre and east.

In a written statement released on Saturday, the US president said more US troops would be deployed "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."

President Joe Biden says he will withdraw remaining US troops from Afghanistan. Credit: PA

Amid criticism of the withdrawal of Western forces from the country, the president continued: "One more year, or five more years, of US military presence would not have made a difference if the Afghan military cannot or will not hold its own country."

Afghan police tightened security in Kabul on Saturday as the Taliban tightened its control over neighbouring Logar province, including its capital Pul-i-Alam.

The insurgents have reached the Char Asyab district in Kabul province, Logar lawmaker Homa Ahmadi said, just 11 kilometres south of the nation's capital.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani making a televised speech as the Taliban makes rapid gains. Credit: Afghan Presidential Palace Media Office

In a televised speech and his first public appearance since rapid Taliban gains, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told the public that "extensive consultations inside the government" were taking place to tackle the threat.

He vowed not to give up the "achievements" of the 20 years since the US ousted the Taliban following the 9/11 attacks.

Ghani said: "Our beloved country Afghanistan is facing a serious threat of insecurity due to an imposed war on us.

"I am aware of the security situation all over Afghanistan. I express my condolences to the family of civilian and Afghan security forces members who have been martyred and pray for the speedy recovery of the wounded victims."

Taliban fighters Credit: Hamed Sarfarazi/AP

"We are trying to provide necessary services to our countrymen who have been displaced due to the current situation," he said.

"I appreciate the bravery and courage of the Afghan security forces, who stood defending the country and nation with a strong will."

Two senior western diplomat sources told ITV News Global Security Editor Rohit Kachroo on Friday that they expect the insurgents to reach Kabul city in a week, despite reports earlier this week that US assessments had estimated it would take 90 days for the Taliban to enter the capital.

The Taliban now hold half of Afghanistan's 34 provincial capitals and control more than two-thirds of the country.

There is heavy fighting in Mazar-e-Sharif, the country's fourth-largest city, after the Taliban launched an assault early on Saturday.

Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for the provincial governor in northern Balkh province, said the Taliban attacked the city from several directions.

Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes, with many fearing a return to the Taliban's oppressive rule.

Afghan military and officials leave Kandahar city during fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security personnel, in Kandahar Credit: AP/Sidiqullah Khan

The United States, which began ousting the Taliban in Afghanistan shortly after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, is set to withdraw its last troops by September 11 - despite hundreds of billions of dollars in US aid over the years.

It has raised fears that the Taliban could return to power or the country could be plunged into civil war.

Both the US and the UK are evacuating some embassy staff, with the British embassy relocating outside of Kabul.

On Saturday, Labour leader Keir Starmer said the timing of the decision to withdraw from Afghanistan was ill-conceived and the timing left Afghans vulnerable to the Taliban advance.

Calling on Boris Johnson to seek emergency meetings of Nato and the UN Security Council, he added that the UK needs to urgently step up its assistance to Afghanistan.

Keir Starmer said the hasty decision to withdraw troops from Afghanistan was the wrong one

Speaking on Friday evening, Mr Johnson said the UK's military intervention was not "in vain" despite the deteriorating situation following the West's swift departure from Afghanistan that happened almost overnight.

“If you look back at what has happened over the last 20 years there was a massive effort to deal with a particular problem that everybody will remember after 9/11,” he said.

“That was successful. To a very large extent the threat from al Qaida on the streets of our capital, around the UK, around the whole of the West was greatly, greatly reduced.

“I believe it was right, it was worth it and what we must do now is not turn our backs on Afghanistan.”

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The Taliban captured Lashkar Gah on Friday following weeks of heavy fighting and raised its white flag over government buildings, said Attaullah Afghan, head of the provincial council in Helmand. He said three army bases outside of the city remain under government control.

In Tirin Kot, the capital of the southern Uruzgan province, Taliban fighters paraded through a main square, driving a Humvee and a pickup seized from Afghan forces.

In Kandahar, which fell to the insurgents on Thusday, the Taliban announced the takeover of the main radio station. The station has been renamed the Voice of Sharia, or Islamic law.

It was not clear if the Taliban had purged the previous employees or allowed them to return to work.