US State Department orders nonessential embassy personnel to leave Kabul

The US State Department is downsizing the US Embassy in Kabul and has ordered all nonessential personnel to leave Afghanistan amid concerns of heightened violence as US and NATO troops withdraw.

The department “ordered the departure from U.S. Embassy Kabul of U.S. government employees whose functions can be performed elsewhere,” it noted in a travel advisory issued Tuesday.

In an advisory posted to the embassy’s website, the US stated the “Department of State ordered the departure from U.S. Embassy Kabul of U.S. government employees whose functions can be performed elsewhere due to increasing violence and threat reports in Kabul.

“The Consular Section in U.S. Embassy Kabul will remain open for limited consular services to U.S. citizens and for Afghan Special Immigrant Visa processing,” the statement read.

“Commercial flight options from Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) remain available and the U.S. Embassy strongly suggests that U.S. citizens make plans to leave Afghanistan as soon as possible. Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited,” read the statement.

U.S. officials would not confirm the number of embassy personnel departing, but insisted it would be small and that all offices and services will remain open at the embassy.

“This does not reflect the diminution of our diplomatic engagement in Afghanistan,” a State Department official told NPR.

He did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak on the record about the embassy departures. “I would call it a reposturing so that we can prepare for the departure of troops in a prudent manner while continuing our diplomatic priorities in country.”

The departing diplomats will continue to do their work remotely.

“As we’ve all discovered during COVID days, we are able to telework more effectively than we ever imagined. That’s what we’re going to be looking at doing,” the official told NPR.

State Department officials say they will have to find alternatives to medical evacuation and other services that the U.S. military had been providing embassy employees.

“There are a number of security-related things that the military has provided previously, and as they depart, we need to take those functions as best we can,” NPR quoted the official as saying.