PM warns on rescue mission
CANBERRA: Scott Morrison has warned the most dangerous part of Australia’s rescue mission in Afghanistan lies ahead after another 650 people were evacuated.
The five latest flights take the total of people airlifted from Kabul as part of Australia’s efforts to almost 1700 since the operation began last week.
The Prime Minister told Coalition colleagues yesterday the evacuation mission was being conducted in one of the most dangerous parts of the world.
‘‘The hardest and most difficult and dangerous part is ahead of us still — getting out the remaining people and making sure we can evacuate our own people safely,’’ Mr Morrison said.
‘‘Those Australians on the ground are saving lives. Lives that would otherwise be shattered and destroyed if we weren’t able to operate those operations so successfully to date.’’
He said Australia would continue evacuation f lights if the United States decided to extend the withdrawal deadline past August 31.
‘‘I’ve made no assumptions about the Taliban — we know their form,’’ Mr Morrison told the Nine Network.
‘‘We’ve been going like we won’t be able to get another f light in the next day, so we’ve been trying to make every f light as successful as possible.’’
Mr Morrison said the mission would continue for as long as it could. ‘‘If that deadline is able to be pushed out, we’ve made that clear to the United States that we would support that,’’ Mr Morrison said. ‘‘But in the meantime, we’ll just keep getting on with the job.’’
Labor’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said there were dreadful consequences for people left behind under the Taliban. ‘‘The hard reality is the government acted too late,’’ she told a caucus meeting.
‘‘Helping those who help us is both an ethical responsibility and a national security priority.’’
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said it was not a perfect situation but he would rather be an Australian trying to leave Kabul than from many other countries.
● Western countries are ‘‘working at a war-footing pace’’ to get people out of Afghanistan, a NATO country diplomat says, as US President Joe Biden looks set to come under pressure from other G7 leaders to seek more time to complete the airlift.
Widespread chaos punctuated by sporadic violence has gripped Kabul’s airport, with Western troops and Afghan security guards driving back crowds desperate to flee following the Taliban’s takeover of the Afghan capital on August 15.
Countries conducting the evacuations are trying to meet an August 31 deadline agreed earlier with the Taliban for the withdrawal of foreign forces, a NATO diplomat told Reuters.
Leaders of the G7 countries — Britain, Canada, France Germany, Italy, Japan and the US — will meet virtually to discuss the crisis.