Australia pledges $300m to Afghanistan

2012-05-16 12:01
Sydney - Australia pledged on Wednesday to contribute $300m to Afghanistan in the years following the withdrawal of foreign troops to assist local forces with the transition.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Canberra would provide $100m annually for three years from 2015 "as part of international efforts to help sustain and support Afghan National Security Forces [ANSF] beyond the transition".

Australia has about 1 550 troops stationed in Afghanistan with a focus on training and mentoring Afghan National Army soldiers in southern Uruzgan province.

Gillard last month said that Australia would begin withdrawing troops in 2013 - quicker than planned due to significant security gains - though her government has since stressed to Nato it will be "combat ready" through 2014.

The Australian prime minister said on Wednesday that Afghanistan "will have responsibility for its own security by the end of 2014" but the job would not be complete.

Promises to be finalised

"To consolidate and build on the security gains of the transition strategy, the Afghan National Security Forces will need ongoing funding and training and mentoring support," Gillard said, making the $300 million pledge.

"Australia has a vital national interest in supporting Afghanistan's stability and security after transition. Our commitment to ANSF funding reflects these enduring national interests."

In addition to the funding Gillard said Australia would consider an "ongoing special forces presence" in Afghanistan and maintain "a substantial development assistance program beyond 2014" in areas such as health and education.

The promises would be formalised in a long-term partnership agreement to be signed off with Afghan President Hamid Karzai covering areas such as security, trade and investment, development and cultural ties, she added.

Australia committed an extra $1.29bn in this year's budget to the decade-long conflict, in which it has lost 32 soldiers.

- SAPA

Read more on:    julia gillard  |  hamid karzai  |  afghanistan  |  australia
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