On Tuesday, May 25, 2021, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Australia would close its Kabul embassy that Friday.
In response, Australian foreign correspondent Greg Sheridan said in a TV interview that everything we had done for the past 20 years in Afghanistan had been a monumental and absolute failure.
Australia's longest war involved 39,000 defence personnel, 41 members killed, 261 injured and cost an estimated $10 billion. Many ADF members and veterans experience clinical mental health, including loss of life to suicide.
One veteran (mostly male) is estimated to die by suicide every two weeks. Someone's son, father, husband, partner, mate.
Australia's military involvement in Afghanistan reflects an idiom of idiocy by Liberal-National and Labor governments. Follow thy leader, bugger the costs. Canberra is uncharacteristically silent about its withdrawal from Afghanistan. We lost the war and failed to provide lasting peace.
The UN reports 111,000 Afghan civilians have been killed or injured since it recorded civilian casualties in 2009. Brown University (2019) estimated that more than 64,100 Afghan national military and police have been killed since the war began in 2001. Billions in foreign aid has been wasted. Afghanistan in 2020 was ranked 165 out of 180 countries on the global Corruption Perceptions Index. In 2017 it ranked 177 out of 180 countries. The US Government (2021) estimated $19 billion of the $63 billion that it had spent on Afghanistan's reconstruction since 2002 was lost to waste, fraud and abuse.
PM Morrison, leaving Afghanistan with integrity matters.
The federal government's Smart Traveller website advises Australians "the security situation in Afghanistan is extremely dangerous" with a "very high threat of terrorist attacks". Local and foreign operations are targeted across the country, involving politically motivated attacks, criminal gangs and kidnaps-for-ransom.
It's officially too dangerous for the Australian embassy to operate. It's recommended Australians leave and don't travel to Afghanistan. Morrison said on April 15, 2021, that the remaining 80 Australian soldiers in Afghanistan would to leave by September 2021, corresponding with the withdrawal of all NATO forces there.
Taliban forces control much of Afghanistan and regularly strike inside its major cities. There are credible reports of planned retributions against Afghan workers who have served with foreign forces. Quite simply, it's too dangerous for Australia's Afghan workers to remain in Afghanistan. They're sitting ducks. Lambs to slaughter. At risk of abduction, torture, imprisonment and execution.
The US has publicly recognised its moral obligations to protect up to 18,000 Afghans who have worked alongside American soldiers. Preparations are advanced to rapidly evacuate these workers from Afghanistan. The UK has said it will resettle more than 3000 Afghan contractors who supported British troops on the ground.
Prime Minister Morrison, leaving Afghanistan with integrity matters.
Retired ADF Major Stuart McCarthy told the ABC that he estimated Australia had a two to three-week window to safely evacuate about 300 Afghan workers (mostly security guards and interpreters) and 700 immediate family members. Photos of Afghan workers are circulated by the Taliban. Death threats occur. They're likely to be murdered for assisting the ADF. Major McCarthy said the government should immediately evacuate these workers.
For example, Afghan interpreters worked at the frontline alongside the ADF. Shoulder to shoulder. They too have sacrificed and experienced so much. As have their families. McCarthy suggested security and health checks could be promptly conducted by the ADF and DFAT in Afghanistan.
Comprehensive checks could be completed once people are airlifted to the United Arab Emirates.
Aussie mateship was historically forged at home and abroad in the committed service of others. I've got your back. I matter. You matter. We all matter. We don't abandon our mates to helplessly die. No one is left behind. We stand together.
The federal government has an enduring duty of care to its ADF personnel, foreign staff, contractors and families who are involved as a direct consequence of military operations - past, present and future. Something political and military apparatchiks should consider before they readily beat the drums of war.
A nation's responsibilities toward its ADF personnel exists long after the final round is fired. War isn't a tick and flick political game from which you can either lightly spin or abrogate collective responsibility. The soul of a nation is how well it protects one another, irrespective of age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity, religion, ability or any other basis.
Afghan workers risked their lives for Australians. It's Australia's turn to step-up and urgently evacuate these families.
Australia's Dunkirk 2021.
Dr Michael Walton is a clinical psychologist based in Lambton
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