NATO and Australia strengthen security partnership

While geo­graph­i­cal­ly far apart, NATO and Aus­tralia share com­mon val­ues and secu­ri­ty chal­lenges, and have devel­oped impor­tant prac­ti­cal coop­er­a­tion in many areas over the past decade. Aus­tralia is cur­rent­ly the lead non-NATO troop con­trib­u­tor in Afghanistan and has pledged to con­tin­ue to sup­port the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces after the NATO-led sta­bi­liza­tion mis­sion ends in 2014. This week, NATO’s Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al vis­its Aus­tralia to thank the coun­try for its oper­a­tional sup­port and to dis­cuss how to fur­ther strength­en our secu­ri­ty part­ner­ship.

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High-lev­el dia­logue with Aus­tralia has been ongo­ing since 2005. Most recent­ly Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter Julia Gillard attend­ed NATO’s Chica­go Sum­mit in May.

“Aus­tralia wants a long-term part­ner­ship with NATO. We share a com­mon vision for glob­al secu­ri­ty and a com­mon belief in the val­ue of inter­na­tion­al coop­er­a­tion to achieve secu­ri­ty,” she said.

“Secu­ri­ty threats are increas­ing­ly glob­al and so it makes sense to have glob­al part­ner­ships as we look to com­bat those secu­ri­ty threats,” she added, point­ing in par­tic­u­lar to today’s chal­lenges of coun­ter­ing ter­ror­ism, cyber attacks and pira­cy.

Dur­ing NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s vis­it to Aus­tralia this week, he and Prime Min­is­ter Gillard will sign a joint polit­i­cal dec­la­ra­tion which com­mits Aus­tralia and NATO to strength­en­ing part­ner­ship in areas of mutu­al inter­est.

A shared com­mit­ment to Afghanistan

At the Chica­go Sum­mit Prime Min­is­ter Gillard par­tic­i­pat­ed in an impor­tant meet­ing focused on how best to secure Afghanistan’s future. Lead­ers from NATO’s 28 nations and the 22 part­ners in the ISAF coali­tion gave a clear, long-term com­mit­ment to con­tin­ue sup­port­ing the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces, after the mis­sion of the NATO-led Inter­na­tion­al Secu­ri­ty Assis­tance Force (ISAF) is com­plet­ed in 2014.

With some 1550 Aus­tralian Defence Force per­son­nel deployed, the coun­try is the largest non-NATO con­trib­u­tor of troops to ISAF. Since 2006, the Aus­tralian forces have been main­ly deployed in the south­ern province of Uruz­gan, sup­port­ing ISAF ele­ments and train­ing, men­tor­ing and part­ner­ing with var­i­ous branch­es of the Afghan Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Forces. The province was iden­ti­fied as ready for tran­si­tion towards Afghan lead in May 2012. The Aus­tralian forces – which recent­ly took over the com­mand of the Com­bined Team Uruz­gan from US forces – will be respon­si­ble for tak­ing this process to com­ple­tion.

In Chica­go, Prime Min­is­ter Gillard con­firmed Australia’s future con­tri­bu­tion to the post-2014 NATO-led mis­sion to train, advise and assist the Afghan nation­al secu­ri­ty forces. Beyond train­ing, Aus­tralia has pledged 100 mil­lion US dol­lars annu­al­ly to help sus­tain the Afghan secu­ri­ty forces from 2015 to 2017. In the mar­gins of the Sum­mit, Aus­tralia also signed a long-term part­ner­ship agree­ment with Afghanistan.

Speak­ing to the press in Chica­go, Prime Min­is­ter Gillard under­lined the rea­sons for Australia’s com­mit­ment, shared with NATO, to sta­bi­lize Afghanistan: “In 9/11, in Bali, we can actu­al­ly trace the con­nec­tions and trace the tak­ing of Aus­tralian lives by ter­ror­ists to train­ing that hap­pened in Afghanistan, so it is unam­bigu­ous­ly in our nation­al inter­est to no longer see Afghanistan be a safe haven for ter­ror­ists.”

A val­ued secu­ri­ty part­ner

NATO’s coop­er­a­tion with Aus­tralia goes beyond Afghanistan and pri­or con­tri­bu­tions to NATO-led oper­a­tions in the for­mer Yugoslavia. In 2010, Aus­tralia con­tributed to a NATO Trust Fund project designed to clear unex­plod­ed ordi­nances in Saloglu, Azer­bai­jan. The Aus­tralian navy is also cur­rent­ly coop­er­at­ing with NATO’s Counter Pira­cy Task Force to fight pira­cy off the coast of Soma­lia as part of Oper­a­tion Ocean Shield.

Oth­er areas of coop­er­a­tion include the fight against ter­ror­ism, research and tech­nol­o­gy, and non-pro­lif­er­a­tion ini­tia­tives. Aus­tralian defence per­son­nel also par­tic­i­pate in a num­ber of NATO activ­i­ties, includ­ing sev­er­al mil­i­tary exer­cis­es.

Against this back­ground, the Aus­tralian Prime Min­is­ter was also invit­ed to attend a spe­cial meet­ing dur­ing the NATO Sum­mit in Chica­go between the 28 NATO Allies and the lead­ers of 13 part­ners from around the world.

The meet­ing was a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to dis­cuss the lessons learned from mutu­al coop­er­a­tion and to exchange views on com­mon secu­ri­ty chal­lenges. Lead­ers said they were ready to coop­er­ate in new areas, includ­ing cyber defence and ener­gy secu­ri­ty and to engage more in joint train­ing and exer­cis­es.

Ulti­mate­ly, the Allies and Aus­tralia are nat­ur­al part­ners in the face of glob­al secu­ri­ty chal­lenges. They are deter­mined to safe­guard the free­dom and secu­ri­ty of their cit­i­zens. They share the val­ues of indi­vid­ual lib­er­ty, democ­ra­cy, human rights and the rule of law – and a com­mit­ment to defend them.

Allied Com­mand Oper­a­tions