Melbourne: Australian Defence Minister Stephen Smith on Wednesday said that the country`s troops have made significant progress in fighting insurgency in trouble-torn Afghanistan.
After returning from Afghanistan trip, Smith said his meetings with Afghan officials convinced him that Australia could best contribute by supporting efforts to improve the social and economic opportunities of local families.
He said during his visit he had discussed the security situation with Australian troops as well as with US, Afghan and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commanders.
"It is clear that we are making progress on the security front," Smith was quoted as saying by the Australian news agency AAP.
"ISAF and Afghan forces have extended security to areas previously controlled by the Taliban - from the Tarin Kowt bowl to the Mirabad Valley in the east, Deh Rawud in the west and north through the Baluchi Valley into Chora," he said.
Smith, accompanied by Defence head Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, visited Australian troops at the Forward Operating Base Mirwais in the Chora Valley.
"A group of young diggers told me that over the seven months of their deployment the local Afghans were now more supportive of the combined efforts of Afghan and ADF troops to bring security to the valley," he said.
"This reinforced my view that progress is being made but we must expect the Taliban to fight back. The coming summer will be tough."
Smith said his meeting with Oruzgan province Governor Omar Shirzad in Kabul underscored the importance of development and governance to sustain progress.
"I stressed to my Afghan colleagues that the single greatest contribution we could make to Oruzgan at this point in time is to support Governor Shirzad`s efforts to improve the social and economic opportunities of Afghan families," Smith said.