Australia on Tuesday abruptly announced it will shutter its embassy in Afghanistan this week, expressing fears over the “increasingly uncertain security environment” in Kabul as foreign troops withdraw.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the facility would close as an “interim measure” on May 28 — in just three days — “in light of the imminent international military withdrawal from Afghanistan”.
The United States and allied forces are in the final stages of withdrawing their troops from Afghanistan, ending America’s longest-ever war but heralding an uncertain future for a nation in the tightening grip of Taliban militants.
The elected government in Kabul and the Afghan security services remain fragile despite two decades of foreign capacity building, and their success is far from clear without continued US military support.
Western diplomats and military officials have been scrambling to work out how to provide security for their future civilian presence in Afghanistan amid fears of a Taliban comeback.
“The only incentive for foreign embassies to remain is the humanitarian work that they are involved in, but if their personnel are endangered then there is no point in remaining here,” news agengy AFP quoted a foreign defence official based in Kabul saying.
“Several other embassies will follow Australia in the coming weeks or months.”
US President Joe Biden said all US troops will leave by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda attacks that sparked the US-led invasion of Afghanistan that toppled the Taliban.
Around 80 Australian troops are also leaving Afghanistan, ending a mission that cost the country billions of dollars and saw tens of thousands of military personnel deployed.
Without that small Australian contingent and the larger US force as back-up, Morrison said there was an “increasingly uncertain security environment”.
“The government has been advised that security arrangements could not be provided to support our ongoing diplomatic presence,” he said in a statement. (Agency inputs)