Australian Government warned of dire Afghanistan security situation months before Taliban took over

Helena BurkeNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: Supplied

A decorated Afghanistan veteran has slammed Australia’s evacuation of interpreters and their families after new information came to light.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has revealed the government was warned as early as April that the security situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating rapidly.

“The Department of Defence and ONI (the Office of National Intelligence) advised DFAT on a number of occasions in late April 2021 that closure of the mission might be required owing to the deteriorating security situation and the drawdowns of US and international forces and the ADF from Afghanistan,” the department said.

Labor Senator Penny Wong, whose questions prompted the written response, said the government did not act quickly enough.

“The warnings were there, the risks from the deteriorating security situation had been discussed as far back as January, but the Morrison-Joyce Government neglected to put a plan in place to help those who helped Australia,” Senator Wong told NCA NewsWire.

“Much more could have been done earlier to expedite visas and get our people to safety but it was left too late.”

“As a consequence, Australian citizens and visa holders – including local staff and interpreters – remain in Afghanistan and face a perilous situation.”

More than 2000 Afghan allies and their families have been rescued and brought to Australian since 2013.

But the government has repeatedly refused to disclose the number of Australian citizens and visa holders that remain trapped under the Taliban’s rule.

Stuart McCarthy, an Afghanistan veteran who famously burned his medal in protest of the government’s failure to evacuate Afghan interpreters who worked for the ADF in the war-ravaged country, was outraged by the new information.

“The clear warnings from various intelligence agencies in the early months of this year regarding the Taliban’s escalated insurgency, offensive operations and reprisals against Afghans who supported coalition troops should have been acted upon,” Major McCarthy told NCA NewsWire.

“The governments' refusal to evacuate Afghans who risked their lives working for Australia before the fall of Kabul was criminally negligent.”

The Department of Home Affairs defended the government’s handling of the crisis, telling NCA NewsWire the evacuation of Afghan allies had been a “priority” since 2013.

In May, Foreign Minister Marise Payne officially closed the Australian embassy in Kabul as the danger posed by the Taliban became too great.

Major McCarthy wrote to Defence Minister Peter Dutton following the embassy closure, pleading for the urgent evacuation of Afghan interpreters and other civilians who worked with Australian forces.

He never received a response.

“The government’s decision to close our embassy based on ’security advice’ while failing to commence an evacuation operation in May is simply beggars belief,” Major McCarthy said.

Camera IconOn May 13, Foreign Minister Marise Payne officially closed the Australian embassy in Kabul. The government has refused to publicly release the number of Australians and Australian visa holders still trapped in Afghanistan. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman. Credit: News Corp Australia

“This negligence has resulted in hundreds being left behind, including young children, and there is still no clear plan from our government to evacuate these people.”

Senator Wong echoed Major McCarthy’s views, stating she was “gravely concerned” for the safety of those trapped under the Taliban.

“While the US and the UK have been upfront, the Morrison-Joyce Government has not yet outlined how many Australian citizens and visa holders are still in Afghanistan,” she said.

“Mr Morrison needs to take responsibility for those left behind, and come up with a plan to work with our American friends and other partners to help these people get to safety.”

Senator Payne and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Minister were contacted for comment.

Originally published as Australian Government warned of dire Afghanistan security situation months before Taliban took over

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