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US begins helicopter evacuations in Kabul as Taliban take Jalalabad

US armed forces have started evacuating personnel from the US Embassy in Kabul as Taliban continue to advance toward Afghanistan’s capital city.

The evacuation operation was confirmed to wire services and could be completed within the next 36 hours, with only a few key personnel staying behind.

The reports emerged after the Taliban took control of provincial capital Maidan Wardak on August 14, just 90 kilometers west of Kabul. The Taliban previously seized Jalalabad, cutting off Kabul from the east.

All of the advances of the Taliban in the last days left Kabul as the only major urban area still under government control. What complicates the situation further is the fact that hundreds of thousands of Afghans from across the country have taken refuge in Kabul, living in tents or in the open in the city.

One of the more significant developments of the last few days was the fall of Mazar-i-Sharif, where government forces left behind Mi-17V-5, Black Hawk, and MD-530F(G) helicopters, as well as Cessna 208B, AC-208B and A-29B Super Tucano fixed-wing aircraft.

A pair of US Air Force B-52H bombers was observed as flying toward Mazar-i-Sharif on August 14 and had been expected to bomb the Afghan air base there, but that did not happen.

In a reaction to the Taliban’s rapid advance to Kabul, US president Joe Biden authorized the deployment of approximately 5,000 US troops “to ensure an orderly & safe drawdown of US Embassy and other allied personnel,” a statement from the embassy said.

The statement also warned Taliban reps in Doha that “any action on their part that puts US personnel at risk will be met with a swift & strong military response.”

Latest unconfirmed reports say the Taliban have already started entering Kabul. Citing sources, Al Arabiya reported that clashes are ongoing between the Afghan army and the Taliban in southern and northern Kabul.