Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
I welcome the United States’ December Review of its Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy, announced by President Obama on 16 December 2010.
This Review has been an important opportunity to assess whether the implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan strategy and the transition to Afghan responsibility for security is on track.
It has taken some time for the international community to get that strategy right, and match that with sufficient resources.
The Government welcomes the Review’s assessment that progress is being made. This is in line with Australia’s own observations in Uruzgan Province. Nevertheless, our task is to ensure that this progress and the gains we have made are consolidated and not reversed.
President Obama has identified a number of challenges in this Review. The most significant of these will be improving governance within Afghanistan, and supporting Pakistan’s efforts to address the threat posed by violent extremists.
On this first challenge, the international community, including Australia, is working with the Government of Afghanistan to improve governance and address corruption.
More broadly, as the Prime Minister and I made clear during the recent Parliamentary debate, Australia expects the Afghan Government to continue to make progress on combating corruption.
We reinforced this expectation during the NATO Summit in Lisbon in November, where President Karzai also reaffirmed his commitment to anti-corruption efforts.
On the second challenge, the Government believes that the international community must engage with Pakistan, in concert with efforts in Afghanistan. The Afghanistan-Pakistan border is highly permeable and remains a threat to sustainable progress in stabilising Afghanistan.
Australia is working closely with Pakistan to improve its capability to address the threat posed by violent extremists, significantly increasing our defence engagement with Pakistan over the past two years.
These challenges will require a greater focus over the coming year. But the international community now has the right strategy. The Government is committed to working with the United States and our partners in the International Security Assistance Force to achieve a secure and stable Afghanistan.
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