Australia to shut down its main military base in Afghanistan
Melbourne: Australia on Tuesday said it will shut down its main military base in Afghanistan, a move that will allow most of its troops to come back home by the year end as they have been in the war-torn country "far too long".
Defence Minister Stephen Smith made the announcement to close down the Tarin Kot base in Uruzgan province, saying Australia has been in the strife-torn country "far too long".
Majority of Australian troops in Afghanistan are expected to be back home by the end of 2013 following the closure of multi-national base at Tarin Kot, used by Australian forces.
The decision to close the base has been confirmed by the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), according to ABC report today.
"We`ve been there for over a decade, and that`s far too long," Smith said in Canberra.
"The effect of that closure will be that Australia will no longer have a permanent presence in Uruzgan Province and the majority of Australian Defence Force personnel will return from Afghanistan to Australia.
"Whilst there will be some movement in the numbers and while we are redeploying and repatriating both personnel and equipment, the numbers will go up and down, we expect that by the end of the year we will see at least 1,000 Australian personnel return home."
He said there were currently 1,650 Australian personnel in Afghanistan, including more than 150 people who are working on the withdrawal.
About 1,300 Australian soldiers are based in Uruzgan and the rest are in the major centres of Kandahar and Kabul.
Smith said the ISAF decision was in line with plans laid out by the international community in 2010 to hand over security of the region to Afghan forces by the end of 2014.
The report quoted Chief of the Defence Force David Hurley as saying that the security situation in Uruzgan had improved.
However, corruption and "tribal interplays" was still a part of life in the country.
"These issues are rife in the sense that they will occur across the country but they will be different in different locations depending on how we`ve moved," he said.
Smith said international forces would not leave Afghanistan a "perfect society".
"Will Afghanistan continue to be difficult? Yes. Will it continue to be variable in terms of security? Yes. Will it continue from now on to be dangerous for Australian personnel? Yes, it will. The risk is different but nonetheless there is still a risk," he said.
"But in the end, on January 1, 2015, we remain confident that, with the continuing support of the international community, the Afghan institutions of state, including the army and the police will be able to maintain security and allow a newly elected Afghan president and government to start do the things that they want to do for their people," he said.
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