Australian evacuation fight from Kabul arrives in Perth

The first Australian evacuation flight from Afghanistan has arrived in Perth.

The Royal Australian Air Force plane carrying 90 Australians and Afghan visa holders landed in Western Australia this morning.

It marks the first flight of more than 600 Australians and refugees to make the journey.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has vowed to take in 3000 Afghan nationals but says that number may increase.

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The RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft landed at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul overnight and departed safely at around 1am local time, 18 August 2021.

Another Australian military plane has also touched down in the United Arab Emirates carrying Afghan evacuees and some British citizens.

Meanwhile, US troops are struggling to bring order to the continuing chaos at Kabul's international airport, where Australian citizens, permanent residents and visa holders stranded in Afghanistan have been told to access and await evacuation.

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday told those eligible for evacuation to head to Hamid Karzai International Airport — if it was safe — "to wait for a planned evacuation flight."

"Take all extra precautions for your safety," the department said in an update to its Smart Traveller website.

"Large and potentially volatile crowds may gather.

"Review your personal security plans and be aware of your surroundings."

US Military evacuation flights are continuing and three Australian military aircraft are in the area to help with evacuations expected to continue throughout this week and into the next but access to the airport remains difficult.

Another 40 Australian troops have also been deployed into Kabul as Australian authorities work with allies to hone lists of potential passengers.

On Thursday, Taliban militants fired into the air to try to control the crowds gathered at the airport's blast walls.

Men, women and children fled. Fighter jets later roared overhead, but no airstrike accompanied their pass.

The ABC reported that several Australians and visa holders trying to get through were forced to flee after Taliban guards attacked people.

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"The situation is unimaginable. They were throwing smoke bombs … too much shooting, people getting beaten up," one said.

"You'd go forward in a line and all of a sudden they'd throw another smoke bomb at you."

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday that Australia was working with allies to make sure there was a specific staging area at the airport for the country's evacuee, as well as reaching out to Australian citizens and visa holders.

"There are some who are, who will be waiting for periods of time — not long periods of time, it's not possible to do that — but we want to make sure that we can make them as comfortable as possible," she said.

The minister said Australian troops were only inside the airport and were working with the US and other partners about the situation outside.

Taliban fighters and checkpoints ringed the airport — barriers for Afghans who fear that their past work with Westerners makes them prime targets of the insurgents.

Afghans who made it past the Taliban reached Americans guarding the airport complex, and thrust documents at some of the 4500 US troops in temporary control.

Hundreds of Afghans who lacked any papers or promises of flights also congregated at the airport, adding to the chaos. It didn't help that many of the Taliban fighters were illiterate, and cannot read the documents.

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The first Australian Defence Force evacuation flight has departed Kabul with 26 persons on board.

Both Ms Payne and Mr Morrison spoke to their UK counterparts about the situation on Thursday night.

Mr Morrison and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson agreed the immediate priority was to evacuate "nationals and former employees", according to a readout of the call released by 10 Downing Street.

Mr Johnson "stressed the need for a concerted international effort to prevent a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, including through increasing aid to the region and the resettlement of refugees."

The UK helped Australia evacuate another 76 people from the Taliban-controlled country overnight Wednesday.

https://twitter.com/DominicRaab/status/1428291039668887552

US President Joe Biden and his top officials said the U.S. was working to speed up the evacuation, but made no promises how long it would last or how many desperate people it would fly to safety. "We don't have the capability to go out and collect large numbers of people," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters Wednesday, adding that evacuations would continue "until the clock runs out or we run out of capability."

Russia offered to provide its aircraft to fly Afghans willing to leave the country to any nations willing to host them. Some U.S. NATO partners, including Italy, have been flying Afghans out of the country in relatively small numbers.

The US has rushed in troops, transport planes and commanders to secure the airport, seek Taliban guarantees of safe passage, and ramp up an airlift capable of ferrying between 5000 and 9000 people a day.

One of the last windows of escape from the Taliban threatens to close when Biden's planned pullout by August 31 is complete.

"People are going to die," said Air Force veteran Sam Lerman.

Nearly 6,000 people had been evacuated by the US military since Saturday, a White House official said Wednesday night.

The turmoil has seen Afghans rush the tarmac. In one instance, some apparently fell to their death while clinging to a departing American C-17 transport plane.

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