Faced with criticism over plans to evacuate Australians and some Afghans from Kabul, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned that bad weather predicted in the coming days might cause rescue planes from Afghanistan to be delayed.
Australia said earlier this week that it will send 250 military soldiers to Kabul to evacuate its people as well as an undisclosed number of Afghans who had been granted visas after working for the country throughout the 20-year conflict.
On one trip, Australia evacuated 26 individuals from Afghanistan, and Morrison said 76 more were flown out of Kabul late Thursday on a British plane.
Australia intends to fly evacuation flights in and out of Afghanistan regularly over the next week, Morrison said, but warned plans could be threatened by looming bad weather.
“The weather is closing in on us, and that’s going to create some problems over the coming several days,” Morrison said to reporters in Canberra. His office was unable to provide more information, and weather projections indicate that the day will be largely bright with a minor risk of rain.
Morrison has been under increasing pressure to speed up the rescue of Australians and Afghans who served in the country’s two-decade war in Afghanistan.
He has warned, however, that Australia is unlikely to be able to aid all of the Afghans who have offered assistance, and has offered 3,000 visas from Australia’s current humanitarian immigration scheme of 13,750 each year to fleeing Afghans.
Britain by comparison has promised to take 20,000 people from Afghanistan over the next five years.
Both countries were part of a NATO-led international force that battled the Taliban and trained Afghan security forces in the years after the militants were ousted in 2001.
More than 39,000 Australian military personnel served in Afghanistan and 41 of them were killed there.