Minister for Defence – Intervention to NATO/ISAF Defence Ministers Meeting on Afghanistan

Thank you Secretary General.

I have come to Brussels directly from Afghanistan where I visited Australian forces in Uruzgan Province.

My discussions with Australian, Afghan and ISAF colleagues in Uruzgan focused on transition to Afghan led security responsibility in the Province and the force protection arrangements in place following the recent insider or “green on blue” attacks.

Australian forces in Uruzgan are mentoring the Afghan 4th Brigade of the 205 Hero Corps to take lead responsibility for security in the Province.

Transition commenced in Uruzgan in mid-July.  Australian and ISAF commanders continue to be confident that we are on track to transition to Afghan led security in the Province over the next 12 to 18 months.

Evidencing this, is that of the four infantry kandaks in Uruzgan, this week one kandak commenced independent operations without advisers.  We expect the other three infantry kandaks currently rated as effective with advisers to also commence independent operations by the end of the year.

Australia believes that progress in Uruzgan broadly reflects the progress of transition across Afghanistan.

In Lisbon we agreed to transition to Afghan led security by the end of 2014.  Today seventy-five percent of the Afghan population lives in areas under transition to Afghan security lead.

In Chicago, we agreed to the post 2014 mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Security Forces after transition.

Today we have agreed to commence the detailed planning for that post 2014 train, advise and assist mission.

Australia, as a Strategic and operational partner with NATO, today endorses the North Atlantic Council Initiating Directive and looks forward to continued participation in this detailed planning.

In Chicago, we agreed it was essential for the international community to commit funds to the post 2014 sustainment of the Afghan National Security Forces.

We now need to quickly agree the funding mechanism with key principles of transparency and accountability and which builds on the ANA Trust Fund experience.

In the absence of the UN, the World Bank or other international financial institution providing a vehicle for the management of ANSF sustainment funds, Australia, as the single largest contributor to the ANA Trust Fund, believes NATO should begin the prudent planning to do so.

During my recent visit to Uruzgan, I also discussed insider attacks.

Australia has sustained four such insider attacks.  We have lost seven Australian soldiers and suffered 12 wounded.  We are not alone, with similar or greater losses by ISAF partners.

We must however be clear sighted about this threat.

We have seen less than 100 such incidents over the last two years.

The ANSF members who commit these attacks are a very small number of the over 300,000 to 350,000 Afghan National Security Forces.

Whatever the motivation for these attacks, the Taliban tactic is to claim them as their own for propaganda purposes.

It is our response to such attacks that determines their strategic impact, if any.

We cannot allow such attacks to deflect us from our agreed transition strategy and our post 2014 commitment to Afghanistan.

Australia has not and will not do so.


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