On Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 April I joined my North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Defence and Foreign Ministerial colleagues for the April NATO/ISAF Ministerial Meeting on Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr and I represented Australia at the meeting. We were accompanied by Australia’s Ambassador to NATO, Dr Brendan Nelson, and the Chief of the Defence Force General David Hurley.
The Ministerial meeting in Brussels followed on from my visit to Afghanistan with General Hurley last week.
Ministers considered progress in the ongoing transition process to Afghan-led security by 2014 and the post 2014 international community’s contribution to Afghanistan, ahead of the NATO/ISAF Leaders’ Summit in Chicago in May.
Ministers also discussed the size of the Afghan National Security Force sufficient to maintain security for Afghanistan beyond 2014 and a fair burden sharing arrangement for the cost of sustaining the ANSF into the future.
Ministers also discussed the international community's enduring commitment to Afghanistan through Strategic Partnerships.
Australia is committed to seeing through our mission in support of transition - as set out in the Lisbon strategy.
Beyond 2014, we are committed to supporting and sustaining the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
Australia believes the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) transition, as agreed in Lisbon, is the right strategy and that transition is working.
Progress on the ground in Uruzgan Province continues to be made. It shows that transition is achievable by the end of 2014 – possibly earlier. Uruzgan is ready for transition in Tranche 3.
A capable ANSF must be of a size and structure required to consolidate and build on the security gains we have made.
The ANSF will need long term funding, training and support from the international community. Australia is prepared to give this support, beyond 2014, both financial and in kind.
Beyond 2014, Australia will provide training to the ANSF and we are also prepared, under the right mandate, to make a Special Forces contribution for counter terrorism and to train the ANSF to conduct counter terrorism operations.
When it comes to ANSF sustainment, Australia will pay its fair share. Funding the ANSF is also a task for the broader international community beyond NATO and ISAF.
By the Chicago Summit, Australia hopes to finalise with Afghanistan a long term partnership for the future of our bilateral relationship.
Foreign Minister Carr and I held joint meetings with Supreme Allied Commander Europe Admiral Stavridis, Commander ISAF General Allen, NATO Senior Civilian Representative Ambassador Gass and the United Nations Secretary General's Special Representative for Afghanistan Kubis.
I also met Afghan Defence Minister Wardak, US Secretary of Defense Panetta, UK Secretary of State for Defence Hammond and NATO Secretary General Rasmussen.
I discussed our shared interest in the Joint Strike Fighter with Canadian Defence Minister Mackay, Dutch Defence Minister Hillen and Italian Defence Minister Di Paola.
I discussed the Centenary of ANZAC with the Turkish Defence Minister Yilmaz, who outlined the Turkish Government's strong commitment to the shared commemoration of our soldiers sacrifice in the First World War.
Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Department of Defence: (02) 6127 1999