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US embassy in Kabul told to get rid of sensitive material as Taliban advance

Staff instructed to dispose of documents, equipment ‘which could be misused in propaganda efforts’

The US flag is reflected on the windows of the US embassy building in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 30, 2021. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP)
The US flag is reflected on the windows of the US embassy building in Kabul, Afghanistan, July 30, 2021. (Sajjad Hussain/AFP)

WASHINGTON — The US embassy in Kabul on Friday ordered staff to get rid of sensitive material that could be used for Taliban propaganda as the insurgents rapidly advanced in Afghanistan.

In a memorandum to staff, a facility manager at the sprawling embassy directed employees to incinerators and other disposal sites for documents and equipment.

“Please also include items with embassy or agency logos, American flags or items which could be misused in propaganda efforts,” the memo said.

A State Department spokesperson said that the embassy in Kabul was conducting a “drawdown.”

“Drawdowns at our diplomatic posts around the world follow a standard operating procedure designed to minimize our footprint across various categories, including staffing, equipment and supplies,” the spokesperson said.

The memorandum is the latest sign of mounting concerns for the safety of one of the largest US embassies in the world after President Joe Biden ordered a withdrawal of American troops after 20 years.

Taliban fighters drive an Afghan National Army (ANA) vehicle through a street in Kandahar on August 13, 2021. (AFP)

The Taliban on Thursday seized two other major cities, Herat and Kandahar, as they moved closer to the capital.

Biden on Thursday ordered 3,000 troops to the Kabul airport to move out US staff, with preparations underway to shift embassy operations to the airport as needed.

The Pentagon nonetheless said Friday it did not see an “imminent” threat to Kabul.

The Biden administration is expected to take extraordinary precautions to guard US diplomats, mindful of the fierce backlash after an Islamist attack in 2012 on the consulate in Benghazi, Libya, left dead four people including the ambassador.

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