Afghanistan/Australien — Interview about situation in Afghanistan with PM

Reporter:
John Faulkn­er Good After­noon. This is a ter­ri­ble time, and look I don’t want to put this in a bad way, but I’ve sud­den­ly realised what the cost has been for all the oth­er troops there too, NATO troops, a lit­tle break­down — we’ve lost, the Cana­di­ans have lost more than 140 men, Italy’s lost 24, of course the Unit­ed States has lost more than a thou­sand. It’s a huge price that’s been paid there over the years.

Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er:

There cer­tain­ly is a very sig­nif­i­cant cost. The cost of human life is incal­cu­la­ble when you think of the fam­i­lies that are affect­ed. But of course I think that we always have to under­stand the crit­i­cal impor­tance of what Aus­tralian and oth­er NATO and non-NATO coun­tries who are involved in the ISAF forces in Afghanistan are doing. Aus­tralia is one of 46 inter­na­tion­al part­ners oper­at­ing under a UN man­date in Afghanistan and the work that’s being done there under that UN man­date to ensure that coun­try returns to secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty and doesn’t again become a train­ing ground and safe haven for ter­ror­ists is some­thing that is absolute­ly of crit­i­cal impor­tance to Aus­tralia and the rest of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty.

Reporter:

It is true that Al Qae­da has suf­fered some heavy loss­es over the recent months as a result of those drone planes in Afghanistan and also in Pak­istan. Sev­er­al top lead­ers have been killed there. But how long can Aus­tralia stay? Pres­i­dent Oba­ma is talk­ing about with­draw­ing with­in the year. Do we fol­low their yard­stick or their timetable? What hap­pens?

Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er:

Pres­i­dent Oba­ma has spo­ken of a tran­si­tion to Afghan respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty com­menc­ing in the mid­dle of next year. I’ve been asked this often as you can imag­ine and I’ve con­sis­tent­ly reit­er­at­ed the best advice that we’ve had from our Aus­tralian Defence lead­er­ship, that is that Australia’s oper­a­tional objec­tive in Afghanistan, that is to train, men­tor and part­ner the Afghan Nation­al Army fourth brigade in Oruz­gan province will be com­plet­ed in some three to five years. This is of course the crit­i­cal objec­tive.

Reporter:

So we are there for anoth­er five years?

Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er:

No. Well I’m obvi­ous­ly hope­ful that it will be com­plete in three years, then we’d look at…

Reporter:

So are we look­ing at three years?

Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er:

I think we can say that our task to train the ANA fourth brigade, so it will be respon­si­ble for itself, for secu­ri­ty and sta­bil­i­ty in the Oruz­gan province in Afghanistan will take that peri­od of time and after that’s com­plet­ed — which is why we’ve used ter­mi­nol­o­gy like three to five years — I’m sure there’ll be some remain­ing over­watch respon­si­bil­i­ties after that task is com­plet­ed.

Reporter:

So when I say, we’ve been there eight years and we could be there for anoth­er eight years, that’s not far fetched?

Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er:

I think that would be inac­cu­rate, I believe that we will have com­plet­ed our task, which is train the ANA fourth brigade in between three and five years.

Reporter:

Ok fair enough,

Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er:

… and I can’t give you any bet­ter tim­ing that that, because that’s what the Aus­tralian Defence Force lead­er­ship have con­sis­tent­ly said. Obvi­ous­ly, that doesn’t mean eight years, it means at least three years and there will be some resid­ual respon­si­bil­i­ties for Aus­tralia I believe once that task is com­plet­ed, but this is not only of course a role for the Aus­tralian mil­i­tary. We’re also engaged in devel­op­ment assis­tance and oth­er civil­ian sup­port in Aghanistan as well and I don’t think that any­one would think that Australia’s respon­si­bil­i­ties would just end overnight. I’m sure that Aus­tralia will con­tin­ue to pro­vide that sort of devel­op­ment aid and assis­tance over the longer term to Afghanistan.

Reporter:

Alright Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er, I thank you for your time.

Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er:

Thank you very much.

Media con­tacts:
Col­in Camp­bell (John Faulkn­er): 02 6277 7800 or 0407 787 181
Defence Media Liai­son: 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664

Press release
Min­is­te­r­i­al Sup­port and Pub­lic Affairs,
Depart­ment of Defence,
Can­ber­ra, Aus­tralia