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Australian FM visits to Afghanistan focuses on alleged war crimes by Aus troop

AT Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne has recently paid a visit to Afghanistan to discuss the alleged war crimes committed by the Australian forces in Afghanistan.

Mrs. Payne arrived in Kabul on Sunday afternoon after holding a series of meetings and summits in Europe.

The stopover was not flagged for security reasons. A bomb went off in Kabul only the day before Senator Payne arrived, killing at least 68 people, most of them schoolchildren.

Mrs. Payne held talks with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and chairman of the high council for national reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah. She also discussed the withdrawal of Australian troops and hoped for ongoing peace in the war-torn country.

She also held meetings with the top U.S. and NATO forces commander in Afghanistan, General Austin Miller to discuss the withdrawal of troops from the country.

Senator Payne left Afghanistan on Sunday evening, after several hours in the country. 

The federal government announced last month that the 80 or so remaining Australian soldiers in Afghanistan would pull out of the country by September, in line with the US military withdrawal.

Australia is also grappling with the legacy of the almost two-decade-long war in Afghanistan.

The relationship between the two countries has been rocked by the findings of the Brereton Report, which found there was “credible evidence” that Australian soldiers unlawfully killed at least 39 civilians during the conflict.

The Defense Department has already begun the process of expelling more than a dozen soldiers in the wake of the report, and recently appointed Rear Admiral Brett Wolski to head a taskforce that will shape what it does next.

A special investigator is also probing potential criminal prosecutions.

The Foreign Minister only briefly mentioned war crimes in the statement, saying she “discussed the recent Inspector-General report, Australia’s robust response, and the establishment of the Office of the Special Investigator” with leaders in Afghanistan.

Her visit comes at an uncertain and fraught moment for Afghanistan.

In September last year, Afghanistan’s government began peace talks with the Taliban in Qatar, but the discussions faltered earlier this year when the Taliban protested the US timeline for withdrawal. In recent weeks, there has been yet another surge in violence in the country.

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