Australia’s commitment in Afghanistan will undergo some key changes as announced by Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard in a recent speech at the Australian Strategic and Policy Institute in Canberra.
The Prime Minister reiterated the government’s will to begin withdrawing troops this year, which is foreseen to take between 12 and 18 months, and complete by the end of 2013, while most of the international troops will begin to pull out only in 2014. Of the 130.000 NATO troops from 50 countries present in Afghanistan, about 1.550 are Australian, mostly employed in the Urzugan province. They suffered 32 losses since 2001.
With the May 21st NATO Summit in Chicago approaching, Prime Minister Julia Gillard hopes the nations of the coalition will restate their commitment to this cause and stated that she will use “the opportunity that the Chicago summit creates to announce the details of increased Australian development assistance to Afghanistan through to 2015-16 – and of our commitment to maintain that contribution in subsequent years”. A small number of troops will be kept in the region to train Afghan troops.
The Prime Minister also stated that “the vital business of the Chicago summit in May” will be to “review our progress in transition – to map out how we intend to complete the handover of security responsibility to the Afghan Government”, a process of transition that has already begun in some areas of the south and the east of the Country where the Afghan National Security Forces have started taking the lead in security and “to ensure sustainment – to build the international commitment necessary to fund, train and support the Afghan National Security Forces after transition is complete”.