US confirms end to its 20-year mission in Afghanistan

By Melissa Coade

Tuesday August 31, 2021

Desperate Australians are seeking assistance from NGOs like the Red Cross to find or reconnect with relatives who remain trapped in Afghanistan.
Desperate Australians are seeking assistance from NGOs like the Red Cross to find or reconnect with relatives who remain trapped in Afghanistan. (timsimages.uk/Adobe)

With the final withdrawal of US troops from Kabul, desperate Australians are seeking assistance from NGOs like the Red Cross to find or reconnect with relatives who remain caught in Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis.

A worldwide tracing service known as the Restoring Family Links (RFL) program is currently being operated by the Red Cross Red Crescent movement for people who have lost contact with loved ones due to war, conflict and disaster. 

Australian Red Cross protection manager Nicole Batch said that the impact of the political upheaval in Afghanistan had heightened the stress felt by the Afghan diaspora, who were reaching out in growing numbers to help to locate friends and family in Afghanistan.

“We are getting calls from people distressed because they can’t reach their loved ones. They are worried and searching for answers,” Batch said.

Calls to the RFL hotline had increased tenfold since the Taliban entered Kabul, the Red Cross reports.

At a Pentagon news briefing on Tuesday, US Marine General Frank McKenzie confirmed that the final American troops sent to evacuate at-risk civilians from the new Taliban regime had left Afghanistan’s capital of Kabul

The departure is in keeping with an August 31 deadline that US President Joe Biden had agreed to with Taliban leaders, who swept into power over the war-torn nation much faster than intelligence specialists thought

The general said the final evacuation flight was carried out by a C-17 military aircraft, which departed Hamid Karzai International Airport just before midnight on Monday (Kabul time). All remaining US armoured vehicles and military equipment was destroyed before the Taliban was notified of the final departure.

The last of Australia’s Defence personnel who were helping to facilitate emergency evacuation flights from Kabul left Afghanistan hours before a devastating double suicide bomb was detonated nearby the airport

Due to the escalating hostilities in Kabul during August, the Red Cross said thousands of people were displaced across Afghanistan. Many of the displaced people were in dire need of medical treatment, and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross health facilities.

“Everyone in Australia should be sensitive to the fear and uncertainty this is causing, and support people in our communities who have friends or family in Afghanistan – they are living through this crisis,” Batch said. 

The Australian Red Cross is fundraising to increase capability of the RFL program, as well as critical healthcare and other humanitarian aid delivered by aid partners in Afghanistan.

The Afghanistan Red Crescent, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent, and the ICRC plan to remain in Afghanistan and continue their aid work across the country.

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