I leave Australia later today to travel to Brussels to join my North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Defence Ministerial colleagues for the February NATO / ISAF Defence Ministers’ Meeting on Afghanistan.
This will be my fourth visit to Brussels for the purpose of attending a NATO / ISAF Defence Ministers’ Meeting on Afghanistan.
Defence Ministers will consider progress in Afghanistan, particularly in the security context and the ongoing transition process to Afghan-led security by 2014.
Australia is committed to training and mentoring the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in Uruzgan Province to enable them to take on responsibility for security in Uruzgan by 2014.
Australian forces continue to make steady progress in training the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army. The 4th Brigade is increasingly assuming the lead for the planning, preparation and execution of tactical operations, allowing Australian forces to concentrate on mentoring and partnering Afghan command and combat support functions.
The 4th Brigade is also demonstrating progress towards operating independently, with a number of infantry Kandaks (Battalions) now expected to be capable of conducting independent operations during 2012. On current advice, the 4th Brigade as a whole is expected to be operationally viable and ready to take the lead for security by 2014, and possibly earlier.
Defence Ministers will also take the opportunity to discuss the international community’s post?2014 transition commitment to Afghanistan ahead of the NATO / ISAF Summit in Chicago in May.
Continued international community support and resourcing for the ANSF will be essential for Afghanistan in the post-transition environment.
I will also take the opportunity to meet bilaterally with a range of my NATO/ISAF Defence Ministerial colleagues.
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Department of Defence: (02) 6127 1999