Australia will shut its Kabul embassy on May 28 following the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan and increased violence in the country over the past month.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the change on Tuesday, stating that it does not lessen Australia’s commitment to Afghanistan or its people.
“The departure of the international forces and hence Australian forces from Afghanistan over the next few months brings with it an increasingly uncertain security environment where the government has been advised that security arrangements could not be provided to support our ongoing diplomatic presence,” Morrison said.
He said Australia remained committed to its bilateral relationship with Afghanistan and would “continue to support the stability and development of Afghanistan” in concert with other nations.
The Australian embassy, which first opened in 2006, would reopen at a later date when the environment is safer, but until then, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials will visit Afghanistan from other residential posts in the region.
Opposition Foreign Affairs spokesperson Penny Wong has called on the government to explain its decision and consider alternative options like co-locating a diplomatic presence with another like-minded nation.
She noted the importance of Australia’s support of Afghanistan through its diplomatic presence, cooperation on development, and people-to-people links.
“The Morrison government should explain how it will now meet these commitments,” she said.
“We are also disappointed that after 20 years of the successive Australian military, diplomatic and development engagement in Afghanistan, there was no bipartisan consultation on this important decision.
The closure has caused consternation among some of Australia’s Middle East experts.
University of Western Australia Adjunct Professor Amin Saikal, author of two books about Afghanistan, including “The Spectre of Afghanistan,” lamented the move.
“Australia to close its embassy in Kabul in 3 days,” he wrote on Twitter. “Other Western embassies may follow suit. This further erodes confidence in the U.S. & allied promise that they will stand by the people of Afghanistan after troop withdrawal under the US-Taliban peace agreement—all tragic.”
Australia to close its embassy in Kabul in 3 days. Other Western embassies may follow suit. This further erodes confidence in the US & allied promise that they will stand by the people of Afghanistan after troop withdrawal under the US-Taliban peace agreement – all tragic.
— Amin Saikal (@AminSaikal) May 25, 2021
ANU Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies senior lecturer Kirill Nourzhanov told The Epoch Times in an email that Australia’s move signalled “Afghanistan fatigue” in the West.
He said that despite Australia only having a “small footprint in Afghanistan” the withdrawal would send a “clear message” to the National Unity Government (NUG) it will have to “survive with less external support in the near future.”
Nourzhanov, who co-authored “The Spectre of Afghanistan,” said that regions bordering the troubled state were also preparing for a deteriorating security situation along the border.
“In Central Asia, there’s a universal expectation of a deteriorating security situation on the border with Afghanistan. Frontline states (Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) are feverishly bolstering their defence perimeters,” he said.
This concern is also filtering into the larger players in the region, namely Russia, which is shoring up its military bases in the region.
“They are engaging with Russia, in particular, both on the bilateral bases (increased arms transfers) and within the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). The Russian 201st military base in Tajikistan is being reinforced to provide additional support to national armed forces in case of a military crisis,” Nourzhanov explained.