Washington (CNN)The State Department on Tuesday ordered the departure of government employees from the US Embassy in Kabul “whose functions can be performed elsewhere” as the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan gets underway.
“By minimizing the number of employees in Afghanistan whose functions can be performed elsewhere, personnel who are urgently needed to address issues related to the drawdown of US forces and to continue the vital work we are doing in support of Afghanistan and its people will be able to remain in place,” a State Department spokesperson told CNN.
President Joe Biden announced earlier this month that the United States would begin to withdraw all remaining forces from Afghanistan by May 1, bringing an end to nearly two decades of military involvement in the country.
The State Department spokesperson said the ordered departure affects “a relatively small number of employees,” noting, “we do not anticipate any changes to our operations and capabilities resulting from this action.”
“The Ordered Departure at the US Embassy in Kabul ensures that American diplomacy and support for Afghanistan will be sustainable, robust, and effective,” they said. “This includes our active support of the Afghan peace process and our continued diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian support of the future the Afghan people want, including the gains made by Afghan women.”
An updated travel advisory issued Tuesday also reflected the ordered departure and warned US citizens against traveling to Afghanistan.
“The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide routine and emergency services to U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is severely limited, particularly outside of Kabul. Evacuation options from Afghanistan are extremely limited due to the lack of infrastructure, geographic constraints, and the volatile security situation,” the advisory said.
“Family members cannot accompany U.S. government employees who work in Afghanistan. Unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. government employees and their family members is restricted and requires prior approval from the Department of State,” it said. “U.S. Embassy personnel are restricted from traveling to all locations in Kabul except the U.S. Embassy and other U.S. government facilities unless there is a compelling U.S. government interest in permitting such travel that outweighs the risk. Additional security measures are needed for any U.S. government employee travel and movement through Afghanistan.”
On Monday, defense officials told CNN that the Pentagon is assembling a force of around 650 troops to send to Afghanistan in the coming days to protect US forces as they withdraw from the country.
The deployment was approved by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin late last week as part of a package of military assets being sent to the country to facilitate the US withdrawal, which is due to be complete by September 11.
CNN’s Barbara Starr contributed to this report.