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U.S. Embassy In Kabul Tells Staff To Destroy Sensitive Material And Evacuate

Murals are seen along the walls at a quiet US embassy on July 30, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Paula Bronstein Getty Images
Murals are seen along the walls at a quiet US embassy on July 30, 2021 in Kabul, Afghanistan.

A memo obtained by NPR lays out the emergency preparations being made by American diplomats at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul — including the destruction of sensitive documents and computers — as most of them prepare to leave the country.

The memo was written for staff at the embassy and shared with NPR on condition of anonymity.

Most will be evacuated by 3,000 U.S. troops on their way to Kabul to ensure a safe and orderly departure. The embassy will be evacuated and a very small consular staff will work in Kabul, the memo noted.


The embassy staffers were instructed to destroy sensitive documents and desktop computers before they leave, according to the document.

Staff members who don't have consular experience are being asked to depart by the end of this month.

Charge d'affaires Ross Wilson, the acting ambassador, is also meeting his counterparts in other embassies and updating them on the situation.

The U.S. has also called on the Taliban not to attack the embassy and departing U.S. diplomats. The embassy also employs many Afghan workers. Their future was not immediately clear.

Afghan government control is rapidly shrinking, limited mostly to Kabul and the eastern parts of the country.Morning Edition's Noel King spoke to former U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ronald Neumann on Friday about the situation.


"I think the decision to pull out the troops was a bad decision," Neumann notes. "We could have stabilized or held the situation stable with the same force that we now find necessary to put back in temporarily under adverse conditions."

But, he warned, "Reflecting on the past is a bad use of time when we have so many pressing issues in front of us."Neumann says we need to get those citizens who supported the American vision and ideals in Afghanistan out of harm's way.

"The United States is now in a kind of panic — almost panic mode," Neumann says, "trying to protect our own people and get out the so-called SIV." SIV, or special immigrant visas, refers to the special immigrant visas promised to Afghan interpreters who worked with the U.S. military.

He says we have "a much larger moral debt" to the Afghans who have "bought into our values ... when we talk about democracy and about women's rights and justice."

This generation of people, Neumann notes, has been the target of attacks from the Taliban and is "in enormous danger now."

Neumann says we must get these people out of Afghanistan. If we leave them "in harm's way, we are chalking up an enormous black mark for ourselves, for our country and for the future."

This story originally ran on the Morning Edition live blog.

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