World / Conflict

Afghanistan airlift: NZ citizens among hundreds on Australian flights out of Kabul

19:43 pm on 22 August 2021

Australia ran four flights into Kabul, Afghanistan, last night, evacuating more than 300 people, including Australians, Afghan visa holders, New Zealanders, US and British citizens, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said today.

People disembark from an Australian Air Force plane after being evacuated from Afghanistan Photo: Jacqueline Forrester / Australian Defence Force / AFP

The news came after the United States and Germany told their citizens in Afghanistan to avoid travelling to Kabul airport, citing security risks as thousands tried to flee almost a week after Taliban Islamists took control.

"We will continue to run those flights, working together with our partners and our allies," Morrison told the the ABC's Insiders programme.

"We are uplifting not just Australians and Afghan visa holders for Australia, but those from the United Kingdom, the United States and New Zealand."

Ppeople forming a line to board the Royal Australian Air Force C-17A Globemaster at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul. Photo: SGT Glen McCarthy / Australian Defence Force / AFP

The Australian government has now evacuated more than 550 people from Kabul since 18 August, including Australians and Afghan visa holders.

Last week, about 8000 people were flown from Afghanistan on flights organised by the US, UK and European Union countries.

The first flight to bring evacuees from Kabul to Australia landed in Perth on Friday night, bringing Australians, Afghan visa holders and family members, including women and children, Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne said.

She said the efforts have been hampered by Taliban violence.

"There are people in their thousands, as you've seen, crowding around the entrances to the airport," she said.

"And there have been, unfortunately, injuries as well. And, we have had to address some of those amongst our passenger cohorts too. It is dangerous."

At a media briefing yesterday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Defence Force's mission to the region is being hampered by the chaos around Kabul's airport.

She said the Defence Force's role was to support New Zealand's partners so they can all join forces on the evacuations.

However, it was unlikely New Zealand troops would be able to rescue everyone they wanted to from Afghanistan, she said.

About 80 troops left Auckland on Thursday to assist with evacuation efforts. It is hoped more than 50 New Zealand citizens and scores of Afghans who helped New Zealand's efforts in the country will be rescued.

Seven dead at Kabul Airport

Seven Afghan civilians have died in the crowds outside Kabul airport, as people desperately try to flee the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan, the UK's Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said.

"Conditions on the ground remain extremely challenging but we are doing everything we can to manage the situation as safely and securely as possible," a spokesperson said in a statement.

There have been chaotic scenes outside Kabul airport as thousands of Afghans have desperately tried to escape and governments have scrambled to evacuate their citizens and eligible Afghan colleagues.

About 4,500 US troops are in temporary control of Hamid Karzai International Airport, with some 900 British soldiers also on patrol at the site as part of efforts to secure the evacuation flights.

Taliban militants have been manning checkpoints around the perimeter of the airport and blocking Afghans without travel documents from entering.