Australia Closing Afghanistan Embassy at End of Week Due to Security Concerns as U.S. Troops Withdraw

Australia is temporarily closing its embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, later this week due to security concerns as U.S. and NATO troops withdraw from the country.

Dave Sharma, an Australian lawmaker and former diplomat, said that the embassy closure is "temporary and really related to the ability to secure our staff and personnel when our defense contingent leaves."

"Whatever we need to do in the short term to protect our people, of course, I support, but longer-term I think this is a relationship we should and must be in for the long haul," Sharma said in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp.

Even though the Afghan Foreign Ministry said it was committed to providing security to embassies in the heavily protected "green zone," several embassies, including the U.S. Embassy, have scaled back non-essential personnel, according to the Associated Press.

Australia Embassy Afghanistan
A security personnel guards an entrance near the Australian embassy at the Green Zone in Kabul on May 25, 2021, after Australia abruptly announced to shutter its embassy in Afghanistan this week over security fears as foreign troops withdraw. WAKIL KOHSAR/AFP via Getty Images

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

A number of other embassies in the beleaguered Afghan capital have sent home non-essential personnel, warned their nationals against traveling to Afghanistan and urged those already in the country to consider leaving.

The last of the 2,500 to 3,500 U.S. troops and 7,000 NATO-allied troops will be gone by Sept. 11, generating fears that their departures could increase the chaos and insecurity already plaguing the capital. Violent attacks, many of them unclaimed, have targeted journalists and in many cases the country's minority Shiite Muslims. The U.S. blames those attacks on an upstart Islamic State affiliate.

Australia has 80 soldiers still in the country but at its peak there were 15,000 Australian troops deployed to Afghanistan. Australia's military has been embroiled in allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan and Australia has established an investigative agency to build criminal cases against special forces suspected of committing crimes from 2005 until 2016.

Obaidullah Baheer, a political analyst in Kabul, was critical of Australia's decision to close and of other embassies to scale back, saying it undermined faith in the abilities of the Afghan government to provide security.

"Such a move will be seen as a sign of the Australian government's lack of faith in the republic to defend itself against the Taliban," he said.

However, the Taliban's political spokesman Suhail Shaheen told The Associated Press it would not harm diplomats and would cooperate to ensure their security.

"They should not have any concerns," he said.

Australia Embassy Kabul
Afghan security personnel guard around the Green Zone, which houses embassies, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. Australia is shutting its embassy in the Afghan capital later this week, citing security concerns ahead of the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops. Rahmat Gul/AP Photo