Minister for Defence, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, travelled to the Middle East on 26-27 September where he spent time with Australian troops, and met key leaders in Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates. Minister Pyne was accompanied by the Chief of the Defence Force, General Angus Campbell, AO, DSC.
During the visit to Kabul, where Minister Pyne stayed overnight, he thanked ADF personnel deployed on Operation HIGHROAD, Australia’s contribution to NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
“It was important and valuable to have the opportunity to meet our servicemen and women on operations and hear first-hand about their experiences, challenges and achievements,” Minister Pyne said.
“My message to Australia’s troops is that your work is vitally important to Australia’s national security interests and you are achieving so much despite the massive challenges you face.
“Australians have every reason to be proud of the commitment and professionalism of our troops who are working shoulder to shoulder with our partners to build a positive future for Afghanistan.
“I was encouraged to hear our soldiers say that the standard kit they wear and use to protect themselves has improved dramatically in the last three years and is the best they have known.
“It shows the importance of the Coalition Government’s $200 billion investment in military capability to better protect our servicemen and women and to keep them ahead of the enemy. They deserve nothing less.”
Minister Pyne met with troops over dinner at Camp Grant and a barbeque lunch at Camp Qargha, where ADF mentors have been integral to the success of the Afghan National Army Officers Academy.
Graduates at the Academy now exceed 3,300 including more than 150 female officers. Minister Pyne also visited the ADF Task Group at Hamid Karzai International Airport, Headquarters Resolute Support, and the Marshal Fahim National Defense University where approximately 300 ADF and civilian personnel support the development of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces through the current train, advise and assist mission.
“The ADF’s support to the Government of Afghanistan is helping to contain the threat of international terrorism and provide the foundations of a better future for its people,” Minister Pyne said.
During his visit to Afghanistan, Minister Pyne met Lieutenant General Tariq Shah Bahrami, the Afghan Minister for Defence, as well as the Commander of the NATO-led Resolute Support mission, General Scott Miller from the US.
“During these meetings I re-affirmed Australia’s support to Afghanistan and reiterated our ongoing commitment to the Resolute Support mission which includes additional personnel to support the development of the Afghan Airforce helicopter capabilities announced in July.
“We will continue to stand with our international partners in facing global security challenges like terrorism.”
Minister Pyne highlighted the social progress achieved in Afghanistan as a result of improved security.
“The contribution of Australia and our NATO partners has helped see a dramatic increase in school enrolments from around eight hundred thousand in 2001 to eight million today. Under Taliban rule, no girls were allowed to go to school and now 40 per cent of students are girls,” he said.
In the United Arab Emirates, Minister Pyne met the Minister of State for Defence, His Excellency Mohammed bin Ahmed Al Bowardi.
“This was a great opportunity to reaffirm the friendship between Australia and the United Arab Emirates,” Minister Pyne said.
“Our relationship is based on common interests and shared security challenges, including our commitment to international efforts to counter Daesh, supporting the rules‑based global order, and promoting regional security and stability.”
Minister Pyne also met with the Chairman of the Emirates Defence Industries Company during his visit.
“Deeper engagement between our defence industries, including through industry partnerships and cooperation, will strengthen the broader bilateral relationship and contribute to a stronger, more sustainable and globally competitive Australian defence industry in support of the Australian Defence Force’s capability needs.”
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