I leave Australia tomorrow with the Prime Minister to travel to Chicago to attend the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO)/International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Summit (NATO/ISAF Summit).
The Chicago NATO/ISAF Summit follows the April meeting in Brussels of NATO/ISAF Foreign and Defence Ministers which I attended together with Foreign Minister Carr. It also follows on from the 13 May announcement by Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, that a third tranche of Provinces and Districts would begin transition to Afghan-led security responsibility from the middle of this year.
The third tranche includes Uruzgan Province, where Australia’s Mentoring Task Force, Special Forces and Provincial Reconstruction Team work with their Afghan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) counterparts. The inclusion of Uruzgan province in Tranche 3 reflects the progress made by Afghan, Australian and ISAF military and civilian teams in improving security and in the training and mentoring of the Afghan National Security Forces.
As transition gets underway in Uruzgan, Australia’s Mentoring Task Force and Special Operations forces will support Afghan National Security Forces as they progressively take the lead for security. As ISAF has said, the complete process of transition in an area can take 12-18 months, meaning that Australia’s target of completing transition in Uruzgan by the end of 2014, and possibly earlier, is on track.
In Chicago, we will also re-affirm our commitment to supporting Afghanistan after transition.
This week the Prime Minister and I announced that Australia will contribute US$100 million each year for three years from 2015 as part of international efforts to help sustain and support Afghan National Security Forces beyond the transition process. This follows Australia's commitment to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund of US$200 million over 5 years beginning in 2009-10.
In addition to ANSF funding, Australia is also prepared post-2014 to provide high-level training and advice to the ANSF. Australia is also prepared, under the right mandate, to make a Special Forces contribution for counter terrorism and to train the ANSF to conduct counter terrorism operations.
Australia will maintain a substantial development assistance program beyond 2014. This will help sustain progress made in the delivery of basic services such as education and health to the people of Afghanistan.
Australia’s enduring commitment to Afghanistan will be formalised through a Long-Term Partnership which the Prime Minister will sign with President Karzai.
This Partnership will frame cooperation beyond 2014 in a range of areas, including security, trade, investment, development and cultural and people-to-people links.
While in Chicago I will also take the opportunity to meet bilaterally with a range of my NATO/ISAF Defence Ministerial colleagues.
The Prime Minister and I will be accompanied by the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, Australia's Ambassador to the United States, Kim Beazley, and Australia's Ambassador to NATO, Dr. Brendan Nelson.
Mr Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528
Defence Media Operations (02) 6127 1999