WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States is evaluating the threat environment around its embassy in Kabul on a daily basis, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday, when asked about a potential further drawdown from the mission amid a Taliban takeover of seven regional capitals in Afghanistan.
“Obviously it is a challenging security environment. … We are evaluating the threat environment on a daily basis,” Price told reporters in a briefing. “The embassy is in regular contact with Washington, with the most senior people in this building, who in turn are in regular contact with our colleagues at the NSC, at the White House.”
“But for right now, we’ve been able to continue those core activities that are important for us to conduct on the ground,” Price said, when asked if the worsening security situation was hampering diplomacy.
Taliban insurgents tightened their grip on captured Afghan territory on Tuesday as civilians hid in their homes, and a European Union official said the militants now control 65% of the country after a string of gains as foreign forces pull out.
Pul-e-Khumri, capital of the northern province of Baghlan, fell to the Taliban on Tuesday evening, according to residents who reported Afghan security forces retreating toward the Kelagi desert, home to a large Afghan army base.
The United States on April 27 ordered government employees out of its embassy in Kabul if their work could be done elsewhere, citing increasing violence in the city. Price added that the official posture has not changed since then.
“Of course we do want to minimize the number of employees in Afghanistan whose functions can be performed elsewhere,” Price said.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis, Doyinsola Oladipo and Simon Lewis; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Chris Reese and Peter Cooney)