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Australia to close Kabul embassy after US troops leave

May 25, 2021

Australian PM Scott Morrison said the embassy would be shut in three days amid rising security fears. The embassy will reestablished "once circumstances permit."

Australian soldiers salute in Kabul
A few Australian forces are also expected to leave Afghanistan.Image: Paul Miller/dpa/picture alliance

With the US troops pulling out of Afghanistan, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced on Tuesday that his country would shutter its embassy in Kabul by the end of the week. 

"In light of the imminent international military withdrawal from Afghanistan, Australia will, as an interim measure revert to the model of visiting accreditation for our diplomatic representation to Afghanistan, which we used from the opening of diplomatic relations in 1969 until 2006," said Morrison in a joint statement with Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

The statement also added that the move did not "alter our commitment to Afghanistan or its people."

The prime minister said the embassy would be reopened "once circumstances permit." The embassy had been opened in 2006. It is set to end its operations this Friday, May 28th.

US aims to leave by September

The US has begun formally withdrawing troops from Afghanistan. Most of them will leave by September 11, which marks the twentieth anniversary of the al-Qaeda attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon. 

Around 10,000 NATO soldiers — including 2,500 soldiers from the US and around 1,100 from
Germany, the two biggest contingents — are due to leave the country. 

The Afghan war has cost Australia billions of dollars, and resulted in thousands of troops being sent away to Afghanistan. Australia has 80 troops remaining in Afghanistan as part of the NATO mission. As forces retreat back to their countries, Morrison said there was an "increasingly uncertain security environment."

 "It is Australia's expectation that this measure will be temporary and that we will resume a permanent presence in Kabul once circumstances permit," he added. 

Afghanistan faces uncertain future

The influence of the elected Afghan government and its security forces remains weak, in spite of years of foreign capacity building efforts from the US. Many fear that the government will not be able to retain control with US support dropping.

Nearly two decades after the US invasion, the country frequently faces violent attacks. Earlier this month, an explosion outside a school in Kabul left more than 50 dead. A car bomb in the city of Pul-e-Alam just before the troop withdrawal began left dozens dead. Fighting erupted late Sunday on the edge of Mihtarlam, a city of around 140,000 people and the capital of Laghman province, not far from Kabul.

Violence has soared in Afghanistan since US forces began their final withdrawal on May 1, as insurgents are trying to capture new territory.

tg/dj (dpa, AFP)