Australian PM Sets Early Date for Afghan Pullout

Posted April 17th, 2012 at 4:10 am (UTC-5)
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Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard says her country's troops will withdraw from Afghanistan in mid-2013, one year earlier than previously planned.

Ms. Gillard announced the accelerated withdrawal Tuesday during a speech in Canberra. The prime minister says she will seek “broad and substantial international support” for the decision at next month's NATO summit in Chicago, noting that “the peoples of the world's democracies are weary of this war.”

“I am now confident Chicago will recognize mid-2013 as a key milestone in the international strategy. A crucial point, when the international forces will be able to move to a supporting role across all of Afghanistan. I also expect (Afghan) President (Hamid) Karzai to make an announcement on transition in Uruzgan and other provinces in the coming months, including which areas of Uruzgan will begin the process first.”

Ms. Gillard said the withdrawal should take 12 to 18 months to complete.

About 1,550 Australian troops are deployed in Uruzgan. Ms. Gillard says Australia will continue to provide specialized training to Afghan National Security Forces after 2014.

The withdrawal will conclude shortly before the likely date of Australia's next general election. About 32 Australian troops have been killed in the U.S.-led effort that toppled the Taliban after the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.