The U.S. and UK are sending thousands of troops back to Afghanistan to help evacuate their diplomats, soldiers and citizens as well as thousands of Afghans who worked with them.
This comes as the Taliban have taken the provincial capitals of Terenkot, Pul-e Alam, Feruz Koh, Qala-e Naw and Lashkar Gah, hours after capturing Herat and Kandahar cities.
The Islamic group so far has control over 17 provincial capitals across Afghanistan.
The Pentagon announced it would send about 3,000 soldiers to Kabul’s international airport on Thursday.
Defence department spokesman John Kirby, said: “We have been watching very closely with concern the security situation on the ground – and far better to be prudent about it and be responsible and watching the trends to make the best decisions you can for safety and security of our people than to wait until it’s too late.”
The UK said it would send 600 troops, and the Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said Britain was relocating its embassy to a potentially safer location closer to the centre of the capital.
As many as 200 UK diplomats and soldiers are being evacuated. Britain expects to evacuate up to 4,000 Afghans as well.
Taliban fighters captured Afghanistan’s second and third largest cities on Thursday. The seizure of Kandahar and Herat marked the biggest prizes yet for the Taliban. The group is now within 95 miles of Kabul.
Meanwhile, the Taliban have denied targeting and killing civilians during its offensive against Afghan government troops, calling for an independent investigation and seeking to assure Afghans that “no home or family shall face any threat from our side.”
They issued a statement after the United Nations said more than 1,000 civilians had been killed in the past month, and the International Committee of the Red Cross said that since August 1 some 4,042 wounded people had been treated.
Taliban spokesperson, Suhail Shaheen, said that the group “has not targeted any civilians or their homes in any locality, rather the operations have been undertaken with great precision and caution.” He instead blamed Afghan government troops and foreign forces for any civilian deaths.
Foreign forces aim to be completely out of Afghanistan by September 11.