Afghanistan/Australien — Ministers welcome new arrangements in Uruzgan Province

The Min­is­ter for Defence, Sen­a­tor John Faulkn­er, and the Min­is­ter for For­eign Affairs, Stephen Smith, have wel­comed the deci­sion by the NATO-led Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) mis­sion to estab­lish a new multi­na­tion­al com­mand struc­ture for Uruz­gan Province in Afghanistan to replace the Nether­lands lead from 1 August 2010.

“I am con­fi­dent that this approach will serve Australia’s inter­ests and ensure that we main­tain and build on the progress made in Uruz­gan.” Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er said.

“Under the new arrange­ments, the Unit­ed States will head a multi­na­tion­al ‘Com­bined Team — Uruz­gan’, under an ISAF flag,” Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er said.

“I am con­fi­dent that the role pre­vi­ous­ly per­formed by the Dutch will be more than ade­quate­ly met by the new “Com­bined Team — Uruz­gan” arrange­ments,” Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er said.

Aus­tralia will play a core role in the Provin­cial Recon­struc­tion Team (PRT) includ­ing hav­ing an Aus­tralian civil­ian lead the PRT.

“Australia’s civil­ian com­po­nent in Uruz­gan, which was sub­stan­tial­ly increased ear­li­er this year, will be incor­po­rat­ed into the ISAF-flagged PRT struc­ture. Police num­bers are also being increased from 22 to 28 offi­cers, and these will play a greater role in train­ing the Afghan police,” Mr Smith said.

Australia’s cur­rent mil­i­tary deploy­ment to Afghanistan will be main­tained at around 1550 per­son­nel. The main focus of the Aus­tralian Defence Force deploy­ment remains train­ing and men­tor­ing the Afghan Nation­al Army 4th Brigade in Uruz­gan Province. Aus­tralia will also take on an increased role in pro­vid­ing force pro­tec­tion for Australia’s civil­ian activ­i­ty in Uruz­gan.

“Aus­tralia is com­mit­ted to strength­en­ing our con­tri­bu­tion to civil­ian efforts in Afghanistan. This is a crit­i­cal ele­ment of ISAF’s revi­talised strat­e­gy,” Mr Smith said.

The new multi­na­tion­al arrange­ments in Uruz­gan will help to take this strat­e­gy for­ward with a greater inte­gra­tion of civil­ian and mil­i­tary activ­i­ty and increased focus on build­ing Afghan capac­i­ty to take respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty, gov­er­nance and devel­op­ment.

The new arrange­ments also pro­vide for sub­stan­tial con­tri­bu­tions from oth­er ISAF part­ners.

“Sin­ga­pore­an assis­tance in Uruz­gan com­ple­ments Aus­tralian efforts and is high­ly val­ued. We are also look­ing for­ward to con­tin­u­ing to work close­ly with our Slo­va­kian part­ners who have made a valu­able con­tri­bu­tion to coali­tion efforts in Uruz­gan to date,” Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er said.

“Aus­tralia great­ly appre­ci­ates the efforts of the Dutch forces in Uruz­gan, and the close rela­tion­ship that we have devel­oped with them. We strong­ly encour­age a con­tin­ued con­tri­bu­tion from the Dutch in Uruz­gan,” Min­is­ter Smith said.

Aus­tralia has been work­ing close­ly with NATO and ISAF in the plan­ning of the new multi­na­tion­al arrange­ments, which will come into effect as the Dutch begin to tran­si­tion out of their respon­si­bil­i­ties in the Province at the begin­ning of August.

“Aus­tralia con­tin­ues to make an impor­tant con­tri­bu­tion in Afghanistan through our work in Uruz­gan and oth­er com­mit­ments across Region­al Com­mand South,” Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er said.

“Oper­a­tions remain dif­fi­cult and dan­ger­ous — as trag­i­cal­ly demon­strat­ed by the loss of five Aus­tralian sol­diers in the past two weeks.

“How­ev­er, despite the chal­lenges, and the loss­es, it is crit­i­cal that we con­tin­ue to play our part in the inter­na­tion­al effort against ter­ror­ism which remains a threat to both the Aus­tralian and inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty,” Sen­a­tor Faulkn­er said.

Media con­tacts: Col­in Camp­bell (John Faulkn­er): 02 6277 7800 or 0407 787 181 Court­ney Hoogen (Stephen Smith): 02 6277 7500 or 0488 244 901 Defence Media Liai­son: 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664

Aus­tralian Depart­ment of Defence