Stephen Smith MP
Minister for Defence
NATO / ISAF Defence Ministers’ Meeting
3 February 2012
(Check against Delivery)
This NATO/International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Defence Ministers’ Meeting comes at a critical time for the international community’s commitment in Afghanistan, ahead of the NATO/ISAF Summit in Chicago in May.
The international community has reached the point where key decisions now need to be made about our commitment in Afghanistan. A clear, consistent message about the future from NATO and ISAF is essential for Afghanistan, its neighbours - especially Pakistan - and also for the Taliban and insurgent groups.
Australia believes that there are three key decisions to be agreed at the Chicago Leaders’ Summit:
First, to reaffirm the commitments we all made in Lisbon, namely to transition to Afghan led security responsibility across the country by 2014.
We have made important progress 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.
Second, we 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. Having determined this in consultation with the Afghan Government we also need to agree on the cost of sustaining the ANSF and a fair burden sharing arrangement for consideration by the broader international community.
Third, the international community must make an enduring commitment to Afghanistan. The NATO-Afghanistan Strategic Partnership and comparable bilateral national agreements - including with Australia - are an important start.
But we must, in the context of the Chicago Summit, 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 Mission profile necessary to achieve this could include but not necessarily be limited to:
- Support for the further professional development of the ANSF, including through the provision of institutional and high level niche training;
- Providing the ANSF with continued access to key enablers and capabilities, and
- A continued international Special Forces presence to help the ANSF develop the necessary capability, and where necessary, to undertake operations essential 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.?
Australia is already involved in institutional training through the Afghan National Army Artillery Training School and will continue to work with Afghanistan and ISAF partners to identify further institutional training opportunities.
In addition to this training, the United Kingdom has proposed Australian involvement in a UK-led Afghan National Army Officer Academy.? Such an Academy is essential in developing a professional officer corps within the Afghan National Army, judged to be key to the international community realising an enduring security transition to Afghan authorities.
Australia has indicated to the UK interest in supporting this initiative. We are exploring options for an Australian contribution to the delivery of training at the Academy.