Minister for Defence, Senator John Faulkner, has concluded a visit to Brussels on June 10-11, after attending the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Defence Ministers meeting at NATO.
Senator Faulkner reaffirmed Australia’s continuing commitment to train the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army in Oruzgan province, and help prevent Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for terrorists.
Senator Faulkner told the meeting: “We are encouraged by the signs that the ISAF campaign has blunted the insurgency’s momentum in the south of Afghanistan
“But this last week has reminded us of the cost of our mission. Too many lives were lost including two fine young Australian soldiers, Sappers Moerland and Smith. Their courage and their sacrifice, must not, and will not, be forgotten.”
Defence Ministers received detailed briefings on progress in Afghanistan from Commander ISAF, General Stanley McChrystal, and NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, Mr Mark Sedwill. Senator Faulkner met with General McChrystal and Mr Sedwill separately.
Discussions during the NATO/ISAF meeting, and at bilateral meetings with ISAF partners, focused on challenges ahead including the transition of responsibilities in Oruzgan province after the Dutch relinquish leadership on August 1.
Senator Faulkner held bilateral meetings with Afghanistan’s Defence Minister, General Wardak; Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen; Supreme Allied Commander Europe, General Stavridis; US Defense Secretary Robert Gates; Canadian Minister of National Defence, Peter Mackay; Slovakian Minister for Defence Jaroslav Baska; Dutch Defence Minister, Eimert van Middlekoop and French Defence Minister, Herve Morin.
“I am confident that the ISAF leadership has the right plan, the leadership, the focus and more resources in place, but we also know there is a difficult task ahead to help build the Afghan Government’s capacity to deliver security, services and governance to the Afghan people,” Senator Faulkner said.
Senator Faulkner was accompanied by Chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, and the Secretary of the Defence Department, Dr Ian Watt.
Michael Nguyen (John Faulkner): 02 6277 7800 or 0429 571 843
Defence Media Liaison: 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664
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