Aus engagement in Afghanistan can stretch to a decade: Gillard
Australia will remain engaged in Afghanistan "through this decade at least," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Tuesday warning that a complete transition to an Afghan set up would take some more years.world Updated: Oct 19, 2010 17:25 IST
Australia will remain engaged in Afghanistan "through this decade at least," Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Tuesday warning that a complete transition to an Afghan set up would take some more years.
Gillard told the parliament that Australia intends to stay in the war-torn country post the completion of training mission by troops in 2014 and would be engaged in Melbourne "through this decade at least".
Australians would be needed in the "war-ravaged" country well beyond that and "through this decade at least".
She said that there would still be a need for Australia to play a supporting role after it finishes training the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army in Oruzgan province - a task expected to be completed in 2014, reports said.
During a debate on the deployment of troops to Afghanistan, the Prime Minister warned Australians to brace for more casualties and "hard days ahead".
"The international community will remain engaged in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and Australia will remain engaged," she said.
"There will still be a need for Australians in a supporting role. There will still be a role for training and other defence co-operation".
Gillard said civilian-led aid and development would continue, which would see Australia likely to continue playing a role in the war-torn country, as she warned that the task of "entrenching a functioning democratic Afghan state could be the work of a generation of Afghan people".
She said that she now believed the revised strategy of US President Barack Obama and the surge of 30,000 troops would enable a transition to prepare the Afghan government to take responsibility for its own security.
But the transition would "take some years," she pointed out, as she said: "We will be engaged through this decade at least".
Gillard said Australia's national interests in Afghanistan included ensuring that the country does not again become a safe haven for terrorists and, to stand by the United States alliance formally invoked by John Howard following the 2001 September 11 terrorist attacks.
Commenting on the issue, opposition leader Tony Abbott said Australia owed it to the people who have died to remain confident that the cause had been worthy of their sacrifice.
"Even so, this debate is not just about them... It's also about the 10 Australians who died in the World Trade Centre, the 88 killed in the first Bali bombing and the eight Australians killed in other acts of Islamist terrorism," he said.