Australia is sending troops and aircraft to Kabul on a rescue mission to evacuate its citizens and Afghans who worked alongside its military during the decades-long war.
About 600 people will be flown out of Kabul if Australia’s rescue mission goes as planned, including up to 400 local employees. Reports Wednesday have said that an Australian military transport aircraft has landed in the Afghanistan capital, Kabul, and then departed for a base in the Middle East.
However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has conceded that Canberra won’t be able to help all Afghans who worked with and supported Australian troops, in the wake of the Taliban’s return to power.
“I want you to know that we will continue to do everything we can for those who have stood with us, as we have to this day. But I want to talk openly to veterans that despite our best efforts, I know that support won’t reach all that it should. On the ground events have overtaken many efforts, we wish it were different,” Morrison said.
Officials in Canberra have said that they were considering offering humanitarian visas to prominent women and Afghan public servants who feared for their safety and may look to Australia for a safe haven.
Speaking in the South Australian city of Adelaide, former Afghan interpreter Raz Mohammad, said urgent action was needed to help those trapped in Afghanistan.
“It is just a matter of the [sic] time that we will get the news that there will be mass murdering happening here. Australia needs to increase the numbers of their humanitarian visas as the United States, Canada and some of the other European countries have announced,” Mohammad said.
Immigration officials in Canberra have also said that Afghan nationals in Australia would not be forced to return to Afghanistan when their temporary visas expire given the unstable situation in the country.
Opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese says they should be allowed to stay in Australia permanently.
“We need to give them the certainty of Australian citizenship on a permanent basis,” Albanese said.
Australia has resettled more than 1,800 Afghan interpreters and other staff since 2013.
In November 2001, Australia joined the United States and its allies to remove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan.
More than 26,000 Australian soldiers served during the long conflict, and 41 died.
It was Australia’s longest war.