US diplomats airlifted from Kabul embassy as Blinken blames Afghan military for ‘being unable to defend country’

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The US is rushing for a complete embassy withdrawal in Kabul in just 72 hours, including the top officials at the compound, as Secretary of State Antony Blinken blames the Afghan military for “being unable to defend the country”.

Two sources familiar with the plan informed CNN of the updated schedule that is a much faster version of a plan that was announced on Thursday.

“The fact of the matter is we’ve seen that that force has been unable to defend the country,” Mr Blinken told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday. “And that has happened more quickly than we anticipated.”

The acceleration of the plan is something security officials at the State Department anticipated after seeing the Taliban’s rapid gains and takeovers of provincials capitals across the country.

Most of the diplomats still in Kabul will go to the airport for a flight back to the US, but a small core staff, including the top US diplomat, will stay at the airport for now, meaning that the US embassy in Kabul will be closed by Tuesday.

US officials have told reporters several times that they don’t have a solid information gathering infrastructure on the ground in Afghanistan at the moment, leading to the decision to leave to avoid having to operate in the dark as the Taliban advances. Those who used to gather intelligence for the US, mainly troops in the field, have all been withdrawn.

In an image reminiscent of the fall of Saigon in Vietnam in 1975, a helicopter took off from the US embassy earlier today. Smoke was also seen rising above the embassy as security officials burn important documents and destroy equipment. Once the US flag is lowered, the embassy will officially be closed for the time being.

Mr Blinken pushed back on the comparisons to Vietnam on Sunday, saying: “This is not Saigon.” The top diplomat of the US was asked a question from a veteran on Meet The Press, who wondered: “Why did my friend die?”

“First off, I say thank you for your service. God bless you,” Mr Blinken said. You succeeded in accomplishing the mission that was set out for you way back on 9/11.”

Taliban fighters are attacking Kabul from all directions, and shots were heard on the outskirts of the capital earlier on Sunday before fighters entered the city.

US officials were hoping that the Afgan capital would hold for three months, but have repeatedly had to drastically lower their expectations and expedite the US exit.

Taliban leaders have demanded that the Afghan government step down and surrender Kabul to the extremist group in the hope of avoiding more violence. “We’ve not declared a ceasefire,” they warned.

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