Australia considers return to Afghanistan

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Australia is considering sending officials back to Afghanistan less than a month after leaving the country.

The last Australian troops and diplomats departed Kabul in mid-June as allied troops withdrew from the war-torn nation.

Their hasty retreat raised eyebrows among international partners.

It has also limited Australia’s ability to gather intelligence and monitor the resurgence of the Taliban.

There are now reports Australian civilian, military and intelligence officers could return to Afghanistan within months.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said Australia’s absence from Afghanistan was only temporary.

“Our interim diplomatic arrangements were always expected to be temporary, with the intention of resuming a permanent presence once circumstances permit,” a spokesman told AAP.

“That remains our position.”

There are suggestions officials could be housed in American or British compounds until the Australian embassy in Kabul reopened.

“We continue to engage closely with partners, including the Afghanistan government and coalition member countries,” the minister’s spokesman said.

“We will not comment on intelligence matters.”

The embassy closure has come into sharp focus as hundreds of Afghan interpreters who worked for Australia urgently apply for protection visas to escape reprisal attacks from the Taliban.

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