Australian PM Gillard visits Afghanistan

Oz PM Julia Gillard has vowed to support the US-led mission in Afghanistan during a surprise visit to troops.

Last Updated: Oct 03, 2010, 13:02 PM IST

Melbourne: Australian Prime Minister Julia
Gillard has vowed to support the US-led mission in Afghanistan
during a surprise visit to troops in the war-torn nation on
her first overseas trip as leader.

Gillard, who arrived at the Australian-US base at
Tarin Kowt yesterday, spent two hours with the troops,
assuring them there would be no dilution of the war effort,
and thanking them for their "guts and determination and
bravery", according to media reports here.

"As an Australian, we are very proud of our people and
we are very proud of our people for good reason," she said.
"I did want to make sure that my first trip as Prime
Minister was to here."

Gillard, who is en route to a summit in Brussels, then
left the base for the Afghan capital Kabul, where she met the
overall allied commander in Afghanistan Gen David Petraeus.

Afterwards, Gillard also met Afghan President Hamid
Karzai and then she spent about 12 hours in total in the
country.

Gillard is the third Australian prime minister to
visit Afghanistan since the war began nine years ago and her
trip came against the backdrop of growing unrest at home about
the war.

The federal Opposition has proposed boosting both
personnel and equipment - including tanks, helicopters and
artillery - in response to complaints from troops on the
ground that they are being stretched too thin as their area of
operations expands.

Australia troop numbers in Afghanistan are currently
1550.

PTI