LONDON (AP) — Britain said Thursday that it will send around 600 troops to Afghanistan to help U.K. nationals leave the country amid growing concerns about the security situation following the rapid advance of the Taliban.
In a statement, the defense ministry said the troops will provide protection and logistical support for the relocation of British nationals where required. Around 4,000 British nationals are believed to be in Afghanistan.
The ministry said troops will also help speed up efforts to swiftly relocate interpreters and other Afghan staff who worked alongside U.K. forces in Afghanistan.
The additional forces are expected to arrive in Kabul “over the coming days” and will be deployed on a short-term basis, the ministry statement said. The number of staff at the British Embassy in Kabul has been cut to a core team focused on providing consular and visa services for those needing to rapidly leave the country.
“The security of British nationals, British military personnel and former Afghan staff is our first priority,” Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said. “We must do everything we can to ensure their safety.”
The U.S. also said Thursday that it is sending an additional 3,000 troops to Afghanistan to assist in the evacuation of some personnel from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.
Troops from the U.S. and the U.K. are leaving Afghanistan, having first arrived in the country 20 years ago following the 9/11 attacks.
News of the fresh short-term deployments follow the rapid advance of Taliban forces in recent days.
General Sir Nick Carter, the head of the British armed forces, warned that a dangerous “security vacuum” risks opening up in Afghanistan, potentially enabling international terrorism to take a grip once again. He said the country faces a “humanitarian tragedy.”
“If we end up with a scenario where the state fractures, and you end up essentially with a security vacuum, then there are absolutely ideal conditions for international terrorism and extremism to prosper yet again,” he told the BBC.