Count the cost of Afghanistan war: report

A parliamentary committee has called for all efforts to help Afghans seeking refuge in Australia.
A parliamentary committee has called for all efforts to help Afghans seeking refuge in Australia.

The federal government should reveal the full cost of Australia's involvement in the Afghanistan mission and do more to resettle those displaced by years of war.

The recommendations, which came as the government announced a major boost to the humanitarian intake, form part of an interim report released on Friday by a parliamentary committee set up to inquire into Australia's engagement in Afghanistan.

The bipartisan committee said in its 272-page report a broad review of the Afghanistan mission was needed.

As well, the government should publish "a breakdown of the total cost of Australia's engagement in Afghanistan across each year of its engagement, as well as a breakdown of costs across departments".

"These figures should also include the costs incurred and estimated ongoing costs associated with services provided by the Department of Veterans' Affairs supporting veterans who served in Afghanistan."

An independent review was also needed into the evacuation effort following the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in 2021.

Australia's two decades in Afghanistan, which involved the loss of 41 lives, "had an enduring impact on the ADF and veteran community, as well as on the Australian public at large", the committee said.

"The committee sees a formal review of lessons learned as a vital part of analysing Australia's mission in Afghanistan and assisting in developing our ability to successfully coordinate whole-of-government responses in future conflicts," the report concluded.

The Afghanistan operation, the committee said, raised some broader issues which required further analysis about how Australia kept track of citizens, permanent residents, visa holders and visa applicants at risk during crisis situations overseas.

All efforts should be made to finalise visa applications for Afghan locally engaged employees and their families, and assisting those still eligible to make their way to Australia.

The government should also review the pathways to permanent protection visas for Afghan asylum seekers and refugees currently in Australia, prioritising family reunions when processing humanitarian visa claims from Afghan nationals.

More than 145,000 visa applications have been lodged, when accounting for family members, with Home Affairs telling the inquiry it was "assessing the caseload to determine priorities and valid applications".

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement on Friday the government would provide 15,000 places for Afghan nationals through the humanitarian and family visa program over four years.

"This increased allocation includes 10,000 places for Afghan nationals within Australia's existing humanitarian program and at least 5000 visas within the family stream," he said.

The government initially allocated 3000 places in August 2021, at the time saying it was a floor and not a ceiling.

Mr Hawke said the government would monitor processing numbers and reserved the right to increase the program.

Greens senator Nick McKim said it was a "pea and thimble" trick and at least 20,000 places should be added on top of the existing humanitarian intake.

"The minister should also confirm that everyone from Afghanistan who was issued a '449 visa' during and after the evacuation of Kabul will be granted permanent protection in Australia," Senator McKim said.

Australian Associated Press