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Australian troops to stay in Afghanistan until 2014

23 june 2011, 18:10
Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Thursday said Australian troops would remain in Afghanistan until 2014 as planned despite the decision of the United States to bring 33,000 home next year, AFP reports.

In a pivotal moment for US national security strategy, President Barack Obama said thousands of soldiers would withdraw by the 2012 northern summer, vowing to turn to "nation building" at home.

The president said he would, as promised, begin the US withdrawal this July and that 10,000 of the more than 30,000 troops he committed to the escalation of the conflict would be home this year.

A further 23,000 surge troops will be withdrawn by next summer, and more yet-to-be announced drawdowns will continue, until Afghan forces assume security responsibility in 2014.

Australia, a key coalition partner, has around 1,500 personnel in Afghanistan and Gillard said they would stay the distance.

"As recently as today the chief of the defence force has confirmed to me that those 1,500 Australian personnel are required to acquit our mission in Uruzgan province," she told reporters.

"In terms of the announcement of the United States, our work in Uruzgan province will continue in the same way."

Gillard insisted Australia's strategy would not change.

"We are working to build up the capacity of the Afghanistan nation to provide for its own security," she said.

"We are working to transition security to the leadership of local Afghan forces. We are aiming to do that by 2014 as announced by President Karzai."

Gillard has had to defend her decision to keep troops in Afghanistan in recent weeks after a spate of casualties, with 27 Australians killed in the decade-old conflict so far.

She said Australians would continue to work with the US military in Uruzgan.

"You should not be concerned about the support for our troops from the American personnel that we work with," she said.

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