I visited Afghanistan on Monday, 8 October 2012. This was my fifth visit as Defence Minister.
My discussions with Australian, Afghan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) colleagues in Uruzgan focused on progress in the transition to Afghan led security responsibility in Uruzgan, and force protection arrangements being undertaken following recent insider or green on blue attacks.
Australian and ISAF commanders continue to be confident that we are on track to transfer to Afghan-led security in Uruzgan over the next 12 to 18 months.
Australian Defence Force personnel recently resumed mentored operations with the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army.
I was briefed by outgoing US Commander of Combined Team - Uruzgan (CTU), Colonel Gerald Hadley, and thanked him for the important contribution he has made to the US-Australia partnership in Uruzgan.
I met with Australian Deputy Commander of CTU Colonel Ben James, and the Australian Commander of the 3rd Battalion, The Royal Australian Regiment (3 RAR) Task Force Lieutenant Colonel Trent Scott. We discussed the progress in the training and mentoring of the Afghan National Army Fourth Brigade in Uruzgan.
I also met and was briefed by the Commander of the Special Operations Task Group (SOTG) Lieutenant Colonel I.
SOTG continues to make good progress disrupting the insurgency in and around Uruzgan Province and impeding the flow of funding to the insurgency.
I had the opportunity to address Australian troops at the Multi-National Base Tarin Kot, listening to their views and answering their questions.
I took the opportunity to express Australia's support and gratitude for the sacrifice made by our men and women in uniform.
This is a particularly difficult time for Australian personnel in Afghanistan following the deaths this year of Australian personnel, first Sergeant Blaine Diddams on 2 July, and then the deaths on 29 and 30 August of Sapper James Martin, Lance Corporal Stjepan Milosevic, Private Robert Poate, Private Nathanael Galagher and Lance Corporal Mervyn McDonald.
I visited the Role 2 Medical Facility at Multi-National Base Tarin Kot. This is where Australian troops wounded in battle or injured during their work receive initial treatment.
I thanked Australian and United States medical personnel for their invaluable work on behalf of the Australian people.
I again visited the Initial Screening Area in which the processing and interrogation of Afghan detainees is undertaken.
Australia takes seriously the treatment of detainees and the Government is committed to transparent detainee management arrangements in Afghanistan.
I also met with Uruzgan Governor Amir Mohammad Akhundzada and his Provincial security chiefs, the Commander of the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army Brigadier Zafar Khan, the Provincial Chief of Police Brigadier Mattiullah Khan, and the Provincial Chief of the National Directorate of Security Colonel Khan Mohammed Khan.
We discussed the importance for transition of the close partnership between the Afghan National Army, Afghan National Police and the National Directorate of Security under the leadership of the Provincial Governor and the mentoring of CTU.
I was accompanied on my visit to Uruzgan by the Secretary of the Department of Defence Mr Duncan Lewis, the Chief of the Defence Force General David Hurley, the Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mr Paul Foley, and the Commander of Joint Task Force 633, Major-General Michael Crane.
I will now attend the NATO /ISAF Defence Ministers’ Meeting in Brussels on 9 and 10 October.
Imagery is available at the following link http://images.defence.gov.au/12131271
Vision will be fed to the Parliament House Press Gallery: Part 1 from 11.00am, followed by Part 2 later today
Mr Smith’s Office (02) 6277 7800
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