Pentagon Announces 3,500-4,000 Troops Will Be Deployed to Afghanistan; Airlift Plans 'Being Put Into Place'

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby held a briefing Thursday afternoon confirming what was first reported Thursday morning – that troops are heading to Afghanistan to evacuate US Embassy staff in Kabul, and provided more specifics as to the number of troops and their current locations.

In response to a question from a reporter, Kirby said the Pentagon anticipates troops will be required to assist with “airlift.”

We certainly anticipate being postured to support airlift as well for not only the reduction of civilian personnel from the embassy but also in the forward movement of special immigrant visa applicants. So we do anticipate that there will be airlift required of us and we are working through the final plans right now to put that into place.

One reporter asked where special immigrant visa applicants will be taken to from Afghanistan:

We anticipate that we’ll be looking at locations overseas, outside of the United States, as well as US installations that belong to the United States overseas or here at home.

He was hesitant to give details about whether “airlift” meant taking diplomats and civilians from the embassy itself to the airport or simply evacuating them from the country.

These infantry battalions will be there to help facilitate this safe and orderly reduction, and I don’t want to get into too much tactical detail about what that will require.

Kirby went to great lengths in the briefing and when taking questions to emphasize that this is not a combat mission:

I want to stress that these forces are being deployed to support the orderly and safe reduction of civilian personnel at the request of the State Department and to help facilitate an accelerated process of working through SIV applicants.

This is a temporary mission with a narrow focus. As with all deployments of our troops into harm’s way, our commanders have the inherent right of self-defense, and any attack on them can and will be met with a forceful and appropriate response.

Watch the entire briefing below.