Julia Gillard reaffirms Afghan mission

PM Julia Gillard has reaffirmed Australia`s commitment to stay and follow the mission in Afghanistan, as news of another soldier losing his life in the war came in.

Last Updated: May 24, 2011, 15:00 PM IST

Melbourne: Prime Minister Julia Gillard
has reaffirmed Australia`s commitment to stay and follow the mission in Afghanistan, as news of another soldier losing his life in the war came in.

"Every loss in Afghanistan hurts us as a nation,"
Gillard said in Canberra, offering her condolences to the
soldier who lost his life.

She said there would be some that "despair and wonder"
why Australia remained in Afghanistan and whether any progress
was being made there.

"I think the best thing I can say to people is to
reiterate the words of Ben Robert Smith, our most recent VC
(Victoria Cross) winner," she said, adding, "He said to me and
he said to the nation, we are making a difference in
Afghanistan. Progress is being made."
Afghanistan`s President Hamid Karzai has said he wants
local control of security in place by 2014.

Gillard said the process for Australia`s withdrawal of
forces remained unchanged.

"We will be there seeing the mission through," she
said.

"Transition won`t be a day, or a moment in time - it
will be a process as areas of Afghanistan are sufficiently
stabilised and local security forces are trained to take over.

"There is no point pulling out only to go back in.

"It remained important that Afghanistan never again
become a safe haven for terrorists, Gillard said.

PTI