I visited Afghanistan on Sunday 2 June 2013.
While in Kabul, I met with Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Dr Rangin Spanta and Foreign Minister Dr Zalmai Rassoul.
I discussed with Dr Spanta and Dr Rassoul the forthcoming 2013 Milestone which will see the Afghan National Security Forces assuming responsibility for security across Afghanistan at the national level by the middle of this year.
Both Minister Rassoul and Dr Spanta expressed their gratitude for the efforts of Australian military personnel and civilians in Afghanistan.
I also met with International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander General Joseph Dunford and NATO Senior Civilian Representative Maurits Jochems.
My discussions with Australian, ISAF and Afghan officials provided the opportunity to be updated on the ground on the progress of transition across Afghanistan.
This is the first fighting season with the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) in the lead across the majority of Afghanistan.
As expected the Taliban have sought to take the fight to the ANSF with a number of high profile propaganda motivated attacks across the country including Kabul. The ANSF has led the response to these attacks.
The Taliban has also attacked United Nations organisations and the International Committee for the Red Cross. Australia condemns the attacks on these international institutions which work to improve the lives of ordinary Afghan people.
While in Kabul, I reiterated Australia’s ongoing commitment to Afghanistan, not only until the end of 2014 and the completion of security transition across Afghanistan, but into the future.
Australia’s contribution to Afghanistan post-2014 will continue to support the development of the ANSF through the provision of training and advisory support. We have also made a substantial funding commitment to ANSF sustainment post-2014.
I also visited Tarin Kot, where I met with Commander Combined Team-Uruzgan, Colonel Simon Stuart, other senior Australian Defence Force personnel and the Director of the Uruzgan Provincial Reconstruction Team.
We discussed transition progress in Uruzgan Province, and the developing capability of the Afghan National Army (ANA) 4th Brigade.
I also met with the Commander of the Special Forces Task Group (SOTG), Lieutenant Colonel J.
SOTG continues to disrupt the insurgency in and around Uruzgan Province by taking the insurgent leadership off the battlefield and by impeding the flow of drug money to the insurgency as well as training and mentoring their Afghan counterparts.
It is due to the hard work of the ADF and their ISAF partners in Uruzgan that the 4th Brigade is in a position to assume full responsibility for security in Uruzgan by the end of this year.
I was briefed on the significant progress Australian personnel have made in remediating buildings and facilities, and in preparation for redeploying Australian personnel and the transition of security responsibilities in Uruzgan to the ANSF.
This complex task is on track, and cargo continues to be removed from Multi National Base - Tarin Kot (MNB-TK).
Since the beginning of January, the ADF has used 25 cargo ship trips to bring home major materiel to Australia, including:
- 13 Australian Light Armoured Vehicles;
- 92 Protected Mobility Vehicles (Bushmasters);
- 4 Unimog trucks;
- 23 general cargo loads, which have included vehicle components, uniforms, weapon mounts and a large range of other material.
This material was flown from Afghanistan to Dubai and then loaded onto ships in Dubai.
In the coming weeks and months the ADF plans to return approximately 100 pallets of general cargo per fortnight.
In addition, the ADF’s first shipment through Pakistan is underway and expected to leave Karachi shortly.
Over the last six months, the ADF has reduced its inventory of equipment in the Middle East Area of Operations by around two million individual items.
I had the honour of meeting with Australian troops at MNB-TK. I thanked the troops for their service and passed on the gratitude of the Australian Government and Parliament and the Australian people for their sacrifice and hard work and professionalism.
On my visit to Afghanistan I was accompanied by Chief of the Defence Force, General David Hurley, the Australian Ambassador to Afghanistan Mr Jon Philp and the Commander of Joint Task Force 633, Major-General Michael Crane.
Imagery is available at: http://images.defence.gov.au/S20130201
Minister Smith's office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392