The UK is deploying roughly 600 soldiers to Afghanistan to help evacuate British nationals as the Taliban continues its rapid advance through the country.
Defence secretary Ben Wallace this evening announced the troops will be deployed on a short-term basis “in light of the increasing violence and rapidly deteriorating security environment in the country”.
The government added that the number of staff at the British embassy in Kabul has been reduced to a core team focused on helping people to rapidly leave the country.
Any British nationals who are still in Afghanistan are encouraged to contact the Embassy in Kabul as soon as possible for assistance.
“I have authorised the deployment of additional military personnel to support the diplomatic presence in Kabul, assist British nationals to leave the country and support the relocation of former Afghan staff who risked their lives serving alongside us,” the defence secretary said in a statement.
“The security of British nationals, British military personnel and former Afghan staff is our first priority. We must do everything we can to ensure their safety.”
It comes after the Taliban today claimed control of Herat, which is the country’s third-largest city and a strategic provincial capital near Kabul and the border with Iran.
The group also appeared to be close to taking control of Kandahar, Reuters reported, citing a diplomatic source.
If confirmed, the two victories would be the Taliban’s most significant victories since it began its campaign through Afghanistan in May. Kandahar, Afghanistan’s second largest city, is the group’s spiritual home.
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.
Earlier today the Taliban, which now controls about two-thirds of the country, captured Ghazni, situated on the Kandahar to Kabul road some 150 km from the capital.
The group also ruled out sharing power with the government.
The rapid advance of Taliban forces has sparked a backlash among many Afghans over US President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops and leave the government to fight alone.
Yesterday a US defence official cited US intelligence as saying the Taliban could isolate Kabul in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90.