The request seeks to stave disconnected an evacuation of the embassy by dangling assistance to aboriginal Afghan governments — adjacent 1 that includes the Taliban.
Aug. 12, 2021Updated 10:32 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON — American negotiators are trying to extract assurances from the Taliban that they volition not onslaught the U.S. Embassy successful Kabul if the extremist radical overruns the superior successful a nonstop situation to the country’s government, 2 American officials said.
The effort, led by Zalmay Khalilzad, the main American envoy successful talks with the Taliban, seeks to stave disconnected an evacuation of the embassy arsenic the fighters rapidly prehend cities crossed Afghanistan. The Taliban’s beforehand has enactment embassies successful Kabul connected precocious alert for a surge of unit successful coming months, oregon adjacent weeks, and forced consulates and other diplomatic missions elsewhere successful the state to unopen down.
American diplomats present are trying to find however soon they whitethorn request to evacuate the U.S. Embassy should the Taliban beryllium to beryllium much bent connected demolition than a détente.
Biden medication officials importune that determination are nary contiguous plans to importantly gully down the embassy’s unit of 4,000 employees, including astir 1,400 Americans, arsenic U.S. troops formally complete their withdrawal from the country.
“We are withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan, but we are not withdrawing from Afghanistan,” the State Department said successful a statement. “Although U.S. troops volition depart, the United States volition support our robust diplomatic engagement with Afghanistan.”
Five existent and erstwhile officials described the temper wrong the embassy arsenic progressively tense and worried, and diplomats astatine the State Department’s office successful Washington noted a consciousness of tangible slump astatine the specter of closing it, astir 20 years aft U.S. Marines reclaimed the burned-out gathering successful December 2001.
Several radical gloomily revived a examination that each wanted to avoid: the autumn of Saigon successful 1975, erstwhile Americans were evacuated from the embassy from a rooftop by helicopter.
The fears underscore what was unfathomable conscionable a fewer years ago, erstwhile thousands of American forces were successful Afghanistan and the U.S. Embassy successful Kabul hosted 1 of the largest diplomatic staffs successful the world.
“I don’t deliberation radical are yet astatine the constituent wherever they would accidental we request to get retired the door, but they volition beryllium looking astatine the doorway a batch much often,” said Ronald E. Neumann, who was the American ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2007 and is present the president of the American Academy of Diplomacy successful Washington.
Mr. Khalilzad is hoping to person Taliban leaders that the embassy indispensable stay open, and secure, if the radical hopes to person American fiscal assistance and different assistance arsenic portion of a aboriginal Afghan government. The Taliban enactment has said it wants to beryllium seen arsenic a morganatic steward of the country, and is seeking relations with different planetary powers, including Russia and China, successful portion to person economical support.
Two officials confirmed Mr. Khalilzad’s efforts, which person not been antecedently reported, connected information of anonymity to sermon the delicate negotiations. The State Department’s spokesman, Ned Price, declined to remark connected Wednesday, but said backing would beryllium conditioned connected whether aboriginal Afghan governments would “have immoderate semblance of durability.”
“Legitimacy bestows, and fundamentally is the ticket, to the levels of planetary assistance, humanitarian assistance for the Afghan people,” Mr. Price said.
In different posts astir the world, U.S. diplomats said they were intimately watching the perilous concern successful Kabul to spot however the State Department volition equilibrium its longstanding committedness to stabilizing Afghanistan against protecting the Americans who stay determination arsenic subject forces withdraw.
Mr. Neumann described a push-and-pull strain betwixt the Pentagon and the State Department successful akin situations, fixed the military’s work for carrying retired evacuations and diplomats’ work to support American assistance and power adjacent successful information zones.
“If the subject goes excessively early, it whitethorn beryllium unnecessary, and it whitethorn outgo you a batch politically,” Mr. Neumann said. “If the diplomats hold excessively late, it looks similar Saigon disconnected the extortion oregon the departure from Mogadishu aft everything was already lost, and it puts the subject radical astatine risk. So there’s nary guaranteed close side.”
Another elder U.S. authoritative expressed alarm this week astatine the fall of the provincial capitals crossed Afghanistan, and said that if different cities follow, peculiarly Mazar-i-Sharif, the lone large bluish metropolis inactive nether authorities control, the concern could disintegrate quickly. But Pentagon officials besides noted that Afghan commandos are warring hard successful Lashkar Gah and Kandahar and person truthful acold held disconnected Taliban advances there.
Even so, officials successful Washington and Kabul said, the embassy was holding regular meetings of an exigency enactment committee, which is acceptable up successful each American diplomatic station to measure whether oregon however soon an evacuation whitethorn beryllium necessary. The contented of the meetings is classified because, successful part, they reappraisal quality astir circumstantial onslaught scenarios.
Representatives from the State Department office successful Washington and the U.S. Embassy successful Kabul would not sermon however often the committee was meeting.
The committee tin lone marque recommendations, and it would beryllium up to the embassy’s top-ranking diplomat — successful this case, Ross Wilson, the chargé d’affaires successful Kabul — to bid an evacuation aft consulting with elder officials successful Washington. On Thursday, Mr. Wilson warned the Taliban that “attempts to monopolize powerfulness done violence, fearfulness and warfare volition lone pb to planetary isolation.”
Starting successful April, the embassy began sending location nonessential employees arsenic information became much untenable successful Kabul. Other unit members person been allowed to leave, without punishment to their careers, if they consciousness successful danger.
One diplomat said a fig of what helium described arsenic tiny subject elements person precocious been brought successful to reenforce the embassy, which is wrong what is astir apt already the astir hardened compound successful Kabul’s planetary zone, wherever diplomatic missions and the Afghan authorities are based.
At the aforesaid time, officials said, less diplomats are rotating into Kabul to regenerate colleagues who person near to further cull the fig of Americans posted there. That has raised concerns successful the American diplomatic corps that the embassy would person occupation recruiting unit for years to come.
“It’s a wrenching time,” said Eric Rubin, the president of the national that represents vocation overseas work officers and who is simply a erstwhile ambassador to Bulgaria. He said astir one-quarter of the existent U.S. diplomatic corps person been posted to either Afghanistan oregon Iraq implicit the past 20 years and stay emotionally invested successful the warfare zones successful which they worked.
“There was a batch of sacrifice,” Mr. Rubin said. “Everyone who served determination for the astir portion served without their families, and nether hard conditions; astatine times nether mortar fire. So it wasn’t easy.”
As precocious arsenic past month, elder officials astatine the embassy successful Kabul voiced assurance that unit determination could beryllium evacuated rapidly if necessary, noting a capable fig of commercialized flights leaving from the capital’s planetary airdrome each time could accommodate the compound’s staff.
It is not clear, however, whether an evacuation would see each of the embassy’s overseas unit on with American citizens, and the destiny of Afghan employees who would each but surely beryllium targeted by the Taliban for aiding the United States is of acute interest to elder officials, according to respective radical acquainted with the discussions.
Officials besides said the Biden medication is acrophobic that an evacuation of the American Embassy could make a domino effect that accelerates the departure of different diplomatic missions and planetary enactment — and, successful turn, leads to the illness of the Afghan government.
“I americium rather definite that nary 1 successful our Foreign Service who’s progressive successful this effort is advocating closing down the embassy and evacuating,” Mr. Rubin said.
While decisions astir the embassy’s information are connected the horizon, helium said, “there’s nary crushed to deliberation that there’s an imminent information menace to our people.”
“The archetypal happening is, obviously, the mission, and the ngo is changing,” Mr. Rubin said. “But I don’t deliberation anybody’s going to suggest to locomotion away.”
Helene Cooper successful Washington and Thomas Gibbons-Neff successful Kabul contributed reporting.