Australia is planning to pull out most of its troops by 2013, a year earlier than planned. Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced Tuesday that the mission in Afghanistan was nearly completed and most of its troops would be back home by 2013, smh.com reported.
Gillard said that Australian troops completed their responsibilities of mentoring and training the Afghan National Army's fourth brigade to take the charge of security in Uruzgan province. She cited the necessity to end the combat at the earliest and the improvements in the country's security scenario as reasons for the early exit, USA Today reported.
In a speech to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Gillard said, This is a war with an end. We have a strategy, a mission and a timeframe for achieving it.
Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan. The primary objective of the troops is to train and mentor the Afghan Security Forces to independently handle the security in the region.
According to the previous plans, Australian forces were supposed to withdraw by the end of 2014 when the US-NATO troops will also be pulling out.
Gillard has not mentioned any deadline for the complete withdrawal but said that it would depend on an announcement Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai would make at the end of this month. She added that troop withdrawal would start immediately after Karzai made the announcement that Afghanistan would take the responsibility of security in Oruzgan province independently, smh.com report said.
However, she said that Australia would continue their commitment towards maintaining peace in Afghanistan and would deploy some of their special forces in the country post-withdrawal, based on a pact, expected to be signed between two countries, during the Chicago summit. Australia would continue their economic and financial aid to the battered country, she added.
The opposition objected very strongly to the Gillard's decision to withdraw the troops earlier than planned and termed the move as politically motivated. The opposition said that the Prime Minister was trying to woo the war weary citizens as the federal elections are approaching by the end of next year.
Opposition leader Tony Abbott told Australian Online that though the Australians wanted the troops back home as soon as possible, yet it should happen after the mission was accomplished and any hasty decision might fail the mission.
We want them to come home with a success under their belt, not a failure. 32 Australian families are wracked with the tragedy of losing a loved one. We want to make sure that that sacrifice has been worthwhile. That will happen if our troops come home soon, but with their mission accomplished, Abbott said, according to the Australian.com report.
The deployment of troops' in Afghanistan enjoys a bi-partisan support in the country but, according to local media, the public support to the issue has plummeted as the troop casualties increased. Nearly 32 Australians have died in the mission.