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Australian rescue mission underway in Kabul

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Australia has begun a mission to retrieve citizens and some Afghans from Taliban-controlled Kabul, with an RAAF aircraft reportedly flying in and out of the city this morning.

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A RAAF C-130 Hercules flight has reportedly been able to get into the Afghan capital as part of Australia’s operation to retrieve hundreds of people, including Afghans who helped Australia’s efforts in the war-torn nation.

The ABC reports the rescue mission, which involves 250 troops and three RAAF aircraft, has begun with a military transport plane flying out of Kabul on Wednesday morning.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison issued a direct message to veterans who have been pleading with the federal government to bring more interpreters and other staff to Australia.

“We will continue to do everything we can for those who have stood with us, as we have to this day,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“But, I want to talk openly to veterans that, despite our best efforts, I know that support won’t reach all that it should.”

Cabinet’s national security committee is meeting daily to discuss plans to extract Australians and Afghans who helped allied forces during the two-decade war.

There are grave concerns the Taliban will hunt down and execute people who helped Australia, the United States and other allies.

Since April, 430 Afghan nationals who have worked with Australia have been allowed into the country, with a total of 1800 granted visas.

There are more than 130 Australians working for the United Nations, non-government organisations and elsewhere still in Afghanistan, which is now under Taliban control.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews expects the vast majority of people applying for temporary visas will be approved.

“I’m hopeful there is only a very, very small number, that may require significant security checking,” she told 4BC radio.

Australian Defence Force personnel based themselves in the United Arab Emirates while waiting for the Afghan capital to become safer.

People swarmed Kabul airport in an attempt to board military flights, with footage showing some falling to their deaths after clinging to planes.

NATO video posted online on Tuesday showed the runway empty with American troops on the tarmac.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke confirmed no Afghan visa holder in Australia would be sent home while the situation remained dire.

Morrison refused to commit to offering paths to permanent residency or citizenship, but insisted there were no plans to send people into danger.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said the idea that minority groups like the Hazara community would ever return wasn’t realistic.

“We need to give them the certainty of Australian citizenship on a permanent basis, rather than some pretence that somehow their circumstances are temporary,” he said.

The prime minister didn’t rule out a special intake of refugees, similar to the 12,000 people granted asylum from Syria in 2015.

But he said his immediate focus was on making sure the Australian mission was successful given the desperate situation in Kabul.

-with AAP

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