The majority of Australian Defence Force personnel in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan, are on their way home, the government announced today.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Defence Minister Senator David Johnston held a joint press conference today to mark the departure. They said around 400 Defence personnel remain to advise and train the Afghan National Security Forces.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten also paid tribute to the Australian troops: “A grateful nation should thank our service people. There’s been in excess of 20,000 Australian service people who’ve represented Australia’s interests bringing peace to Afghanistan. Tragically some 40 will never come home, and also 250 plus have received significant injuries. Our thoughts should be with them this Christmas.”
- Listen to Abbott and Johnston (13m)
- Listen to Shorten (2m)
Text of media release from the Minister for Defence, Senator David Johnston
Australian Defence Force completes mission in Uruzgan
The Australian Defence Force mission in Uruzgan has concluded and the majority of our people are on their way home.
Minister for Defence Senator David Johnston today paid tribute to Australia’s Defence personnel for their outstanding efforts in Uruzgan.
“The achievements we have made in Afghanistan and more specifically Uruzgan can be directly attributed to the professionalism and dedication of more than 26,500 Defence personnel deployed over the years who should all be extremely proud today,” Senator Johnston said.
“The drawdown from Uruzgan was in itself an enormous logistical achievement, and I congratulate the ADF for completing this complex task so smoothly and on schedule.”
Senator Johnston said that while the drawdown from Uruzgan is complete, Australia remains committed to Afghanistan in 2014 and beyond.
“Next year our deployed numbers will reduce to around 400 Defence personnel to advise and train the Afghan National Security Forces as they develop their command and logistics capabilities.”
Combined Team Uruzgan (CT-U), under the command of Colonel Wade Stothart, transferred the remaining infrastructure at Multi National Base Tarin Kot to the Afghan Government on Wednesday, 11 December with the remaining personnel departing the province four days later (Sunday 15 December 2013).
Australia has maintained a permanent presence in Uruzgan province Afghanistan since 2005 and assumed leadership of CT-U from the US in October 2012, allowing Australia to play a greater role in managing the transition to Afghan security control in Uruzgan.
Major General Paul LaCamera, Commander of ISAF’s Regional Command South said that the Afghans have had the lead for security in Uruzgan for a year now.
“In this time the Afghans have contained the insurgency and built on the gains of recent years.
“Uruzgan is a testament to the transition process in Afghanistan and shows we are on the right track,” Major General LaCamera said.
Home to nearly 10,000 people at the height of the campaign, Multi-National Base -Tarin Kot had developed extensive infrastructure since 2005 including a sealed airfield and new civilian terminal.
The base has been transferred to various Afghan Government ministries in accordance with the determination of the Uruzgan Base Closure Commission held in August this year. All transferred infrastructure has been deemed safe, secure and sustainable.
The Commander of the Australian Joint Task Force in the Middle East, Major General Craig Orme paid tribute to the effort of Australians who have served in the province over the years together with our coalition partners.
“Uruzgan has been a true coalition effort,” Major General Orme said.
“Australian Defence personnel have worked tirelessly alongside forces from the U.S., Netherlands, France, Singapore, Slovak Republic, and New Zealand and have made a positive and enduring contribution to Uruzgan.
“We can be proud of what we have achieved, and have completed our mission in Uruzgan knowing that we have made a difference.”
Following the completion of Australia’s mission in Uruzgan, Australia will shift to a nationally-oriented mission to provide ongoing training and advisory support for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).
This contingent will include instructors, advisors, support staff and force protection elements assigned to the Afghan National Army (ANA) Office Academy and the Special Operations Advisory Group based in Kabul; ongoing advisory support to the ANA’s 205 Corps Headquarters in Kandahar; ongoing commitment of advisors to the Logistics Training Advisory Team in Kabul; and a continuation of embed staff within a range of roles in ISAF Headquarters.
The Australian Government has also extended the Heron Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) deployment to Afghanistan providing high resolution Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) support until July 2014.
Australia will continue to support Afghanistan’s security, development and governance beyond 2014. Australia has also pledged to contribute to the post-2014 NATO-led ‘train, advise, assist’ mission.
Media release from Opposition Leader Bill Shorten.
ADF’S MISSION IN URUZGAN COMPLETE
The Opposition today paid tribute to the service and sacrifice of Australian Defence Force personnel following the conclusion of their mission in Uruzgan, Afghanistan.
More than 26,500 Australian Defence Force personnel have conducted and supported operations in Afghanistan and the Middle East since 2001.
All Australians are proud of the professionalism and skill of our service men and women across the ADF and it is tremendous that these fine men and women who served in Uruzgan will be home for Christmas.
Our troops have done a truly remarkable job in extraordinarily difficult circumstances. They have been wonderful ambassadors for our country and have made a real and lasting difference to the lives of millions of people across the region.
Australian personnel have helped stabilise Afghanistan, worked closely with the Afghan National Army to improve their capability, and have built or reconstructed schools, hospitals, medical centres and more than 200km of roads in Uruzgan province. The ADF’s success in Afghanistan has not been without tragic cost.
We acknowledge the service and sacrifice of the forty Australian soldiers who lost their lives in Afghanistan and the 261 ADF personnel who were wounded.
We also want to thank our Defence families, who play an integral part in the ADF’s success.
While the ADF’s mission in Uruzgan is complete, Australia remains committed to Afghanistan with 400 ADF personnel remaining to continue to build the capacity of the Afghan National Army and to assist our ISAF partners.