Kabul: There are been increasing pressure on the Australian government from various quarters to evacuate Afghan staff who have supported its diplomats and soldiers across Afghanistan with the withdrawal of troops underway in full swing.
The Returned and Services League (RSL) of Australia has urged their government to do the “right thing”, while former officers who served in Afghanistan have said the threat of Taliban retribution was increasingly real. “If we don’t get them out very soon, many of them are going to be killed,” Maj Stuart McCarthy, a retired Australian officer who served in Afghanistan, told the ABC.
“I estimate that there are 300 Afghan staff in Afghanistan now and probably if you include their family members, a figure of about 1,000 people. These people need to get out now. The Australian government needs to step up.”
Government sources say a proposal for an evacuation mission has growing support at senior levels of the departments of foreign affairs and trade, and within defense.
The US and UK have already announced plans for large-scale evacuations of local staff members who have supported their militaries’ missions, out of concern their support for foreign militaries will make them targets for Taliban reprisals. A US advocacy group, No One Left Behind, estimates that since 2016 more than 300 interpreters have been killed for their service to American troops, a rate of two a week.
US chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen Mark Milley, had told a Pentagon briefing that it was important the US “remain faithful to those who had supported the war effort and that we do what is necessary to ensure their protection and, if necessary, get them out of the country.” As many as 18,000 Afghan nationals have applied for US visas to emigrate to America with their families.
The UK government has said it would evacuate up to 3,000 Afghan nationals alongside its troops, saying it recognized it held a “moral obligation” to find safety for those who had served its forces.
However, the Taliban released a statement on Monday saying that they will not prosecute those who had worked with foreign governments. “We do not pose a threat to Afghan translators of foreign forces. There is no threat from us if these people no longer continue their duties with foreigners.”
The group called on translators who fear to leave the country to return to their normal lives. However, the Taliban said in the statement that after the presence of foreign forces, a number of people were deceived and joined the forces under the name of translators, bodyguards and other titles. The Taliban also said that these people should regret their past and not take such a path in the future, which is considered “betrayal of Islam and the country.”
Meanwhile, looking at the increasingly violent security situation in Afghanistan, regional countries are worried too. The opposition Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has asked the Pakistani government to take the parliament into confidence over the regional security situation likely to emerge after the withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan.
The demand was made by PPP information secretary and former deputy speaker of the National Assembly Faisal Karim Kundi and Senator Rubina Khalid at a news conference on Sunday, a day before start of the budget session of the lower house of the parliament. Kundi said the parliament should be taken into confidence about the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of US forces, saying that the PPP believed that there should be no closed-door meetings.
Recently, even other opposition parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F), from the platform of the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) had already called for an “in-camera” joint sitting of the parliament for a briefing on the situation in Afghanistan.