Australia — Mission overview about Afghanistan

Despite recent progress, ISAF con­tin­ues to face some sig­nif­i­cant chal­lenges in 2011. 

We need to con­sol­i­date secu­ri­ty progress and make tran­si­tion work. 

In the com­ing months, we expect the Tal­iban to sore­ly test ISAF and Afghan forces in Uruzgan. 

ISAF and Afghan secu­ri­ty forces have gained the mil­i­tary ini­tia­tive and the Tal­iban is chang­ing tac­tics as a result. 

The Tal­iban will attempt to under­mine the con­fi­dence of the Afghans, as well as the domes­tic audi­ences of troop con­tribut­ing countries. 

We can expect strikes against ISAF forces and civil­ians alike. 

We can expect high pro­file, high­ly pro­pa­gan­da-based sui­cide attacks. 

We have seen this with the assas­si­na­tion of the Kan­da­har Police Chief, and the attack upon the Min­istry of Defence in Kab­ul and the more recent attack on the Kan­da­har Governor’s office. 

We must steel our­selves for fur­ther attacks. 


Aus­tralia is con­fi­dent that we are on track for a tran­si­tion of secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty to the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces in Uruz­gan in the 2013–14 timeframe. 

The con­ver­sa­tions I had in Afghanistan recent­ly with the Com­man­der of ISAF Joint Com­mand, Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Rodriguez lead to the same con­clu­sion so far as the rest of the coun­try is concerned. 

We very much wel­come the fact that in March Pres­i­dent Karzai announced tran­si­tion would soon begin in the first tranche of sev­en provinces and districts. 

The Tal­iban will try to under­mine our con­fi­dence in the secu­ri­ty of areas under­go­ing transition. 

Patience will be nec­es­sary. As the Prime Min­is­ter has said there is no point in tran­si­tion­ing out ear­ly, just to tran­si­tion back in again. 

US Draw­down

The Unit­ed States has indi­cat­ed that it will announce a draw­down in the mid­dle of this year. 

The Unit­ed States mil­i­tary and admin­is­tra­tion is still work­ing through the detail of that draw­down and is yet to make an announcement. 

Ahead of that announce­ment, I do say, that as a gen­er­al propo­si­tion, there is no incon­sis­ten­cy between the tran­si­tion of secu­ri­ty respon­si­bil­i­ty by the end of 2014 and a Unit­ed States draw­down start­ing in mid-2011. 

The type of troops the Unit­ed States will draw down will also be a con­sid­er­a­tion. For exam­ple, the Unit­ed States has a num­ber of staff in Afghanistan who were deployed to sup­port the surge some 12 months ago. 

As we know from our own expe­ri­ence in Uruz­gan, as cir­cum­stances change, resources are able to be allo­cat­ed differently. 

That said it is best to wait until Pres­i­dent Oba­ma and the admin­is­tra­tion announce the detail of the draw­down in the mid­dle of this year. 

As far as Aus­tralia is con­cerned, we have on aver­age 1550 troops in Afghanistan. That has been the case since April 2009, when this Gov­ern­ment increased our troop num­bers from an aver­age of 1100 troops. 

I am con­fi­dent that over the next cou­ple of years, some­time between now and the end of 2014, we will effect a tran­si­tion to Afghan-led respon­si­bil­i­ty for secu­ri­ty in Uruzgan. 

The Aus­tralian pres­ence will be in Uruz­gan in its cur­rent for­ma­tion until we have done the train­ing and men­tor­ing and secu­ri­ty tran­si­tion job and there­after we expect to be in the Province in some form, such as Spe­cial Forces, secu­ri­ty over-watch, capac­i­ty build­ing, insti­tu­tion build­ing, or niche train­ing roles. 

We need over time to work through the details of that pres­ence, not just with our ISAF part­ners in Uruz­gan, but more gen­er­al­ly with our part­ners in Afghanistan. 

Devel­op­ment and Gov­er­nance in Uruz­gan

Dur­ing my recent vis­it to Afghanistan I met the new Uruz­gan Gov­er­nor Shirzad in Kabul. 

I first met Gov­er­nor Shirzad in Can­ber­ra in Novem­ber 2008 dur­ing a vis­it by a Afghan Par­lia­men­tary del­e­ga­tion spon­sored by the Unit­ed Nations Devel­op­ment Program. 

My meet­ing with Gov­er­nor Shirzad under­scored the impor­tance of devel­op­ment and gov­er­nance for sus­tain­ing progress. 

On 17 April, Gov­er­nor Shirzad pre­sent­ed the 2011 Uruz­gan Provin­cial Devel­op­ment Plan in Kabul. 

The plan was devel­oped through con­sul­ta­tion with vil­lage and dis­trict coun­cils, line min­istries and inter­na­tion­al stake­hold­ers, and artic­u­lates devel­op­ment pri­or­i­ties for the province for the next 12 months. 

It includes 385 projects, requir­ing fund­ing of around US$250 mil­lion, and requires the approval of the Afghan Min­istry of Economy. 

The plan is a first for Uruz­gan and Gov­er­nor Shirzad is to be com­mend­ed for his efforts. 

In my dis­cus­sions with him he said his pri­or­i­ties for the Province were edu­ca­tion and roads, and to fill key civ­il ser­vice posts. 

I rein­forced these points in my meet­ings in Kab­ul with Defence Min­is­ter War­dak, Inte­ri­or Min­is­ter Khan, For­eign Min­is­ter Ras­soul, Tran­si­tion Coor­di­na­tor Dr Ghani, and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion and Rein­te­gra­tion Min­is­ter Stanekzai. 

I stressed to my Afghan coun­ter­parts that the sin­gle great­est con­tri­bu­tion that could be made to Uruz­gan at this point in time is to sup­port Gov­er­nor Shirzad’s efforts to improve the social and eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties of Afghan families. 

Team GlobDef

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