On Thursday 2 and Friday 3 February I participated in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Defence Ministers’ Meeting on Afghanistan in Brussels.
I was supported by Australia’s Ambassador to NATO, Dr Brendan Nelson and the Chief of the Defence Force General David Hurley.
Defence Ministers considered progress in Afghanistan, particularly the ongoing transition process to Afghan-led security by 2014 as agreed at the 2010 NATO/ISAF Leaders’ Summit in Lisbon.
Defence Ministers discussed the international community’s post 2014 transition commitment to Afghanistan ahead of the NATO / ISAF Leaders’ Summit in Chicago in May.
Ministers discussed key decisions to be agreed at the Chicago Summit, including reaffirming the commitment the international community made in Lisbon to transition to Afghan led security responsibility by 2014.
Important progress has been made with the implementation of the first two tranches of districts and provinces to transition to Afghan-led security. When these two tranches of districts have transitioned, Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will provide lead security for up to 50 percent of the Afghan population.
When the final tranche of districts and provinces commences transition to Afghan-led security in mid-2013, the international community and Afghanistan will have achieved a key Lisbon milestone. ISAF forces will of course still need to be in support and prepared to undertake combat operations in support of the ANSF until the end of transition in 2014.
The international community will need to determine and agree the size and shape of the ANSF that is sufficient to ensure and sustain security for Afghanistan in the longer term beyond 2014 and a fair burden sharing arrangement for consideration by the broader international community.
The international community must also make an enduring commitment to Afghanistan and agree a basic mission profile of NATO-led post-2014 post-ISAF engagement to support, assist, advise and mentor the ANSF to ensure stability is sustained beyond 2014 and to achieve our objective of never again allowing Afghanistan to be a training ground for international terrorism.
The continuing international mission profile may include support for the professional development of the ANSF, including through the provision of institutional training; providing the ANSF with continued access to key enablers and capabilities, and a continued international Special Forces presence to prevent Afghanistan from again being used by terrorists to plan and train for attacks on innocent civilians abroad.
Australia has made clear that we expect to maintain a presence in Afghanistan beyond 2014, potentially through training, military advisers, capacity building and development assistance and a Special Forces presence.
All of these issues were canvassed with a number of my Ministerial colleagues in an extended discussion with US Secretary of Defense Panetta.
I held bilateral meetings with Afghan Defence Minister Wardak, NATO Secretary General Rasmussen, Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral Stavridis, Commander ISAF General Allen and NATO Senior Civilian Representative Ambassador Gass.
I held bilateral meetings with a range of NATO Defence Ministers, including UK Secretary of State for Defence Hammond and Canadian Defence Minister Mackay.
I discussed our mutual interests in submarines with Swedish Defence Minister Tolgfors.
I discussed progress on the Air Warfare Destroyer and Landing Helicopter Dock projects with new Spanish Defence Minister Morenes ahead of the scheduled arrival of LHD 1 in Australia in August.
I attended a meeting hosted by New Zealand Defence Minister Coleman with Belgian Defence Minister de Crem to discuss the commemoration of the ANZAC Centenary in Belgium.
I also discussed the ANZAC Centenary with the Turkish Defence Minister Yilmaz.
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392