Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne on Monday visited Kabul and met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to discuss the withdrawal of troops from the war-torn country.
The foreign minister said in a statement that in meetings in the Afghan capital she also discussed the handling of alleged war crimes committed by Australian troops.
Payne, who is also Australia’s minister for women, said she met Afghanistan’s Minister for Women’s Affairs Hasina Safi, the head of the country’s National Reconciliation Council, Abdullah Abdullah, and the commander of the U.S. and NATO forces in the country, U.S. General Austin Scott Miller.
“During these meetings, we discussed the sacrifices made by the Afghan people, as well as those international military forces killed or wounded, including those Australians who made the ultimate sacrifice and the many who still bear the impacts of their service in Afghanistan both physical and mental,’’ Payne said.
The foreign minister said that with the departure of Australian troops from the country, the Australia-Afghanistan relationship is “beginning a new chapter,’’ pledging to continue our close friendship, and support our shared aspiration of peace, stability and prosperity.’’
Payne’s visit to Kabul, which according to Australian media was unannounced, followed explosions near a school in the Afghan capital over the weekend which killed more than 50 people, many of them teenage girls leaving class.
“I expressed our deepest condolences for the cowardly terrorist attack on teenage girls at school,’’ Payne said in a tweet after meeting Ghani.
The Taliban were quick to reject their involvement in the attack, however the government has blamed the militant group.