Pentagon Spokesman: Speed Taliban is Taking Over Afghanistan 'Deeply Concerning'

The U.S. military has been alarmed by the speed with which the Taliban has managed to seize control of much of Afghanistan, as the United States works to wind down a war that has spanned nearly two decades and remove its troop presence from the country.

"We're certainly concerned by the speed with which the Taliban has been moving," Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday afternoon. "It's deeply concerning."

President Joe Biden, who is spending the weekend at Camp David, was briefed on the situation in Afghanistan on Friday, according to the White House. He last spoke publicly about the troop withdrawal Tuesday, telling reporters he didn't regret his decision have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by September 11.

"We spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years—we trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces," Biden said. "Afghan leaders have to come together ... They've got to fight for themselves, fight for their nation."

The president didn't respond to reporters' shouted questions about the continued deteriorating situation in the South Asian country during an event Thursday.

Kirby echoed Biden's remarks about the Afghan military's role as the United States pulls out.

"It's time now to use those advantages," he said. "This is a moment for the Afghans to unite."

It appears that the Taliban is trying to isolate the capital Kabul as it captures territories around it, Kirby said.

Afghan troops have quickly fallen to the force of the Taliban in recent weeks—giving up control of much of the country.

On Wednesday, the Biden administration announced that 3,000 troops—two infantry battalions from the Marine Corps and one from the Army—would be sent into Afghanistan to assist with the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. Kirby said "the bulk" of the military members will be in Kabul by the end of the weekend.

U.S. citizens in Afghanistan have been advised to leave, and some Afghan nationals who have aided the United States in their country, through translation service and other roles, also are being evacuated to the United States, Kirby said.

In the past week, the Taliban has rapidly taken control of many Afghan cities, leaving just three major ones—Kabul, Jalalabad and Mazar-i-Sharif—under the elected government's control.

But Kirby said the Taliban had been on the move for some time.

"We have been watching this from a very early period," he said. "We've been watching what the Taliban is doing."

He wouldn't engage in comparing the situation in Afghanistan and the threat to Kabul to the fall of Saigon in 1975.

"We're not focused on the history of the Vietnam War—we're just not," he said. "We're focused on meeting the requirements that we have today."

Pentagon updates on situation in Afghanistan
Taliban fighters stand on a vehicle along the roadside in Kandahar on August 13, 2021. The U.S. military is concerned at the speed with which the Taliban is taking over in Afghanistan. AFP/Getty Images