The first British troops have begun deploying to Afghanistan to help evacuate UK nationals as the Taliban continues its rapid advance through the country.
It comes after Afghan lawmakers confirmed that the Taliban had seized the Logar province, just south of the capital Kabul, on Saturday.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence has confirmed that Operation Pitting, which will be led by 600 members of the Armed Forces, began yesterday.
Members of the 16 Air Assault Brigade are leaving this weekend, and will provide force protection and logistical support for the evacuation of British nationals from Afghanistan.
The operation will also aid the relocation of Afghans who are in danger from the Taliban for their involvement with British forces.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace announced on Thursday that the troops will be deployed on a short-term basis “in light of the increasing violence and rapidly deteriorating security environment in the country”.
Taliban forces have now advanced as far as the Char Asyab district just seven miles from Kabul, Sky News reported, citing Afghan lawmaker Hoda Ahmadi.
The group has now claimed control of more than two-thirds of the country and holds half of the 34 provincial capitals.
The escalating violence and rapid progress has prompted the US and Germany to urge its citizens to leave the country immediately, just under three weeks before the last of the US-led international forces are due to pull out.
The rapid advance of Taliban forces has also sparked a backlash among many Afghans over US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops and leave the government to fight alone.
Earlier in the week, a US defence official cited US intelligence as saying the Taliban could isolate Kabul in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90.