Australia — Mission overview about Afghanistan

The death of Osama Bin Laden is for a num­ber of Aus­tralian fam­i­lies and for very many peo­ple in the Unit­ed States a reminder of a ter­ri­ble trag­ic per­son­al event where loved ones were tak­en away in the blink of an eye. 

It will pro­vide clo­sure in that respect. 

While some might describe some reac­tions with­in the Unit­ed States as tri­umphal­ism, we do need to under­stand the raw emo­tions that are there for a coun­try, a peo­ple, and indi­vid­ual families. 

Osama Bin Laden was direct­ly respon­si­ble for ter­ri­ble acts of vio­lence against inno­cent peo­ple, and he inspired acts of vio­lence by others. 

Australia’s involve­ment in Afghanistan, under the con­tin­u­ing man­date of the Unit­ed Nations, traces direct­ly back to the 11th of Sep­tem­ber 2001, the day al-Qae­da killed over 3000 peo­ple from more than 90 coun­tries, includ­ing our own, in its ter­ri­ble attacks in the Unit­ed States. 

Bin Laden’s Al Qae­da also planned, car­ried out, or inspired many oth­er ter­ror­ist atroc­i­ties in which Aus­tralians were killed and wound­ed: in Bali, in Lon­don, in Mum­bai and in Jakarta. 

While the death of Osama Bin Laden is undoubt­ed­ly a sig­nif­i­cant set­back for Al Qae­da, it is not the end of the battle. 

As the Prime Min­is­ter said at the time “Our fight against ter­ror­ism does not end with bin Laden’s death. We must remain vig­i­lant against the threat posed by al Qae­da and the groups it has inspired. We will con­tin­ue our sup­port for the counter-ter­ror­ism efforts of the Unit­ed States and our part­ners and we will con­tin­ue our efforts in Afghanistan to ensure that coun­try nev­er again becomes a safe haven for terrorism.” 

The end of Osama Bin Laden does not mean either a change to or the end of our com­mit­ment to Afghanistan. 

It sim­i­lar­ly does not mean an end to the threat of glob­al terror. 

The Gov­ern­ment has made clear to the trav­el­ling pub­lic that there is a risk of reprisals and while nei­ther the domes­tic nor inter­na­tion­al threat alert has been increased, peo­ple do need to con­duct them­selves with vigilance. 


Much has been said about Pak­istan in the con­text of the US mis­sion against Osama Bin Laden. 

I urge care before leap­ing to con­clu­sions about Pakistan’s efforts to trace down Bin Laden. That is best left for the exhaus­tive assess­ment which is under­way, in the Unit­ed States and also in Pakistan. 

More broad­ly, Aus­tralia very much sup­ports Pak­istan in its counter-ter­ror­ism and counter-extrem­ism efforts and that is reflect­ed by the good coop­er­a­tion that we have and the enhanced counter-ter­ror­ism assis­tance that we have pro­vid­ed to Pak­istan in recent years. 

We know the sit­u­a­tion in Pak­istan is com­plex, we know it is com­pli­cat­ed, we know it is tough. 

We also know that Pak­istan needs to do more to counter extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism, par­tic­u­lar­ly on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. 

There is cer­tain­ly no point in walk­ing away from Pak­istan when Pak­istan faces very con­sid­er­able secu­ri­ty and eco­nom­ic chal­lenges and dif­fi­cul­ties. Our sup­port and assis­tance to Pak­istan is not just on the counter-ter­ror­ism front – which we regard as very impor­tant – it is also on the eco­nom­ic front. 

Pak­istan is not going to over­come its extrem­ism and ter­ror­ism and secu­ri­ty prob­lems with­out also mak­ing progress on its eco­nom­ic front. 

And that is why Aus­tralia has in addi­tion to effec­tive­ly dou­bling the num­ber of Pak­istani mil­i­tary offi­cers that we train in counter-insur­gency, also dou­bled our devel­op­ment assistance. 

And that is why Aus­tralia was one of the strongest con­trib­u­tors in the after­math of the ter­ri­ble floods in Pak­istan at the end of last year. 

There is no point in walk­ing away from this dif­fi­cult chal­lenge. That, in my view, would be wrong and it would not assist Pak­istan or the region. 


Aus­tralians can be proud of the fact that our troops have a well-deserved rep­u­ta­tion for their effec­tive­ness and their con­duct. Dur­ing my recent vis­it to Afghanistan I heard noth­ing but praise from Afghan Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ters and NATO/ISAF Commanders. 

It was a great hon­our to be able to address our troops on Anzac Day at the Dawn Ser­vice in Tarin Kot. 

It was also a day to remem­ber those 23 brave Aus­tralian sol­diers who have died in Afghanistan, and the 169 coura­geous sol­diers who have been wounded. 

The sac­ri­fice our men and women are mak­ing is great, as is the appre­ci­a­tion of our nation and our people. 

Our forces face a resilient insur­gency, who, in com­ing months, will seek to re-take ground. 

In this envi­ron­ment, we must steel our­selves for the pos­si­bil­i­ty of fur­ther fatal­i­ties and casualties. 

Despite these trag­ic loss­es and the chal­lenges ahead, Aus­tralia remains resolute. 


Australia’s mis­sion in Afghanistan remains vital to our nation­al secu­ri­ty inter­ests. We are com­mit­ted to sta­bil­is­ing the secu­ri­ty sit­u­a­tion in Afghanistan and to men­tor­ing and train­ing the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces. 

There will be set­backs and there will be adverse inci­dents. The Tal­iban will strike back and try to recov­er ground, and they will also, we know, try to use high-pro­file inci­dents as pro­pa­gan­da events to under­mine confidence. 

If we can hold the gains we have made over the north­ern win­ter, we will be in a much improved posi­tion at the end of the year. 

There is a long way to go, but I believe we have both the mil­i­tary and polit­i­cal strat­e­gy in place, the resources to match it and the peo­ple on the ground to deliv­er it. 

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

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