Yesterday the Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley and I visited our troops deployed in Afghanistan.
We visited the Multi National Base in Tarin Kot where we met with Australian personnel who are serving in Afghanistan and thanked them for their excellent work.
We also visited Australian troops at Forward Operating Base Wali in the Mirabad Valley.
We met with Australian and United States operational commanders in Uruzgan Province, including the United States Commander of Combined Team Uruzgan Colonel Robert Akam.
We also met with Uruzgan Governor Shirzad and his provincial security chiefs, the Commander of the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army Brigadier Zafar, the Provincial Chief of Police Brigadier Mattiullah Khan and the Provincial Chief of the National Directorate of Security Colonel Khan Muhammed.
It is clear that we are continuing to make progress on the security front.
Combined Team Uruzgan and Afghan forces have consolidated the gains they have made over the last twelve to eighteen months in extending the security footprint further across Uruzgan Province.
The Mentoring Task Force continues to make progress in training and mentoring the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army so that it can take the lead for security in Uruzgan Province by 2014.
Our Special Forces and their Afghan partners the Provincial Response Company and the National Interdiction Unit also continue to make progress in disrupting the insurgency in and around Uruzgan Province by taking insurgent leaders, facilitators, revenue streams and bomb-makers off the battlefield.
As the Taliban has lost ground they have resorted to high profile propaganda style attacks and assassinations.
While some of these attacks have been successful, the International Security Assistance Force judges that the change in tactics is a sign of insurgent weakness not strength.
I visited the Initial Screening Area in which the initial processing of Afghan detainees is undertaken.
Australia takes seriously the treatment of detainees and the Government has committed to transparent detainee management arrangements in Afghanistan.
I also met Captain Julie Williams who leads the Combined Team Uruzgan's Female Engagement Team.
Female Engagement Teams are an International Security Assistance Force initiative to bridge the cultural gap created by the fact that the predominantly male security forces are not able to fully engage Afghan women.
The Teams support education programs, economic development and the provision of health services to the local population.
Australians can rightly be proud of what the men and women of the Australian Defence Force in conjunction with their civilian colleagues are achieving in Afghanistan.
Our Afghan and International Security Assistance Force partners express their admiration for what the ADF is achieving in Afghanistan and for their professionalism and their respect for the Afghan people.
General Hurley and I were accompanied by the Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mr Paul Foley, and the Commander of Joint Task Force 633, Major-General Angus Campbell.
I now travel to London for meetings on capability and cyber security issues.
Following my visit to London, I will travel to Brussels to join my North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Defence Ministerial colleagues for the NATO/ISAF Defence Ministers’ Meeting on Afghanistan.
Defence Ministers will consider progress in Afghanistan, particularly in the context of the northern summer fighting season and the commencement of transition to Afghan-led security by 2014.
Defence Ministers will also discuss NATO/ISAF’s post-2014 commitment to Afghanistan.
I will also take the opportunity to meet bilaterally with a range of my Defence Minister colleagues.
Media Note: Imagery of the Minister's visit to Afghanistan is available via the following link:
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