Australian Minister for Defence — Visit to Afghanistan 24- 26 April

Over the past few days the Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Mar­shal Angus Hous­ton and I have had the priv­i­lege of vis­it­ing our troops deployed in Afghanistan.
It was a great hon­our to be able to address ADF troops on Anzac Day at the Dawn Ser­vice in Tarin Kot, Uruz­gan Province, and to spend time with deployed ADF per­son­nel on Anzac Day.

Their dis­tin­guished ser­vice in Afghanistan makes them a stan­dard bear­er for those who fol­low.

It was also a day to remem­ber those 23 brave Aus­tralian sol­diers who have made the ulti­mate sac­ri­fice in Afghanistan.

This was the Chief of the Defence Force’s last ANZAC Day in uni­form. Air Chief Mar­shal Hous­ton has embod­ied the ANZAC spir­it through­out his 41 years in uni­form, and I again thank him for his dis­tin­guished ser­vice.

We took the oppor­tu­ni­ty to meet with Aus­tralian and Unit­ed States oper­a­tional com­man­ders in Uruz­gan Province and Afghan provin­cial secu­ri­ty lead­ers.

It is clear that we are mak­ing progress on the secu­ri­ty front.

ISAF and Afghan forces have extend­ed secu­ri­ty to areas pre­vi­ous­ly con­trolled by the Tal­iban — from the Tarin Kot bowl to the Mirabad Val­ley in the east, Deh Rawud in the west, and north through the Baluchi Valey into Cho­ra.

I vis­it­ed Aus­tralian troops at For­ward Oper­at­ing Base Mir­wais in the Cho­ra Val­ley. A group of young Dig­gers told me that over the sev­en months of their deploy­ment, the local Afghans were now more sup­port­ive of the com­bined efforts of Afghan and ADF troops to bring secu­ri­ty to the val­ley.

This rein­forced my view that progress is being made but we must expect the Tal­iban to fight back. The com­ing sum­mer will be tough.

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

Gov­er­nor Shirzad said his pri­or­i­ties for the province were edu­ca­tion and roads, and to fill key civ­il ser­vice posts in the province.

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 col­leagues that the sin­gle great­est con­tri­bu­tion we could make to Uruz­gan at this point in time is to sup­port Gov­er­nor Shirzad’s efforts to improve the social and eco­nom­ic oppor­tu­ni­ties of Afghan fam­i­lies.

I also met the NATO Senior Civil­ian Rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Ambas­sador Gass, the Deputy Com­man­der of the Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF), Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Buck­nall, and the Com­man­der of ISAF Joint Com­mand, Lieu­tenant Gen­er­al Rodriguez.

Air Chief Mar­shal Hous­ton and I were accom­pa­nied by the Aus­tralian Ambas­sador to Afghanistan, Mr Paul Foley, and the Com­man­der of Joint Task Force 633, Major-Gen­er­al Angus Camp­bell. Mr Smith’s Office: Andrew Porter (02) 6277 7800 or 0419 474 392
Depart­ment of Defence: (02) 6127 1999

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

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