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Australia Shifts Emphasis, Recommits in Afghanistan

Although Australia has officially set a timeline the withdrawal of its nearly 1,000 troops from Afghanistan in 2001, Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon has emphasized his nation’s commitment to Afghanistan’s reconstruction. “We’ve made it very clear that our commitment in Afghanistan is a long-standing one,” he said at a recent press conference.

In security talks, Australia has emphasized greater emphasis on training the Afghan army and national police force. “The key to long-term military success is making sure the army reaches critical mass,” the defense minister said. To implement the new strategy, Australia has increased the size of its military mission and begun embedding its soldiers with Afghan units in a mentorship program. The program is designed to bring the effectiveness of the Afghan military up to Australian standards as quickly as possible.

Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith announced increases in Australia’s non-military support and capacity-building responsibilities for Afghanistan, including training Afghan police, judges and administrators and building new roads, hospitals and schools.

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