Australian PM Sets Early Date for Afghan Pullout

Posted April 17th, 2012 at 12:05 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. She said the pullout will begin after Afghan President Hamid Karzai declares that Afghan forces will assume security responsibilities in Uruzgan province, where 1,550 Australian troops are deployed. The withdrawal will take about 12 to 18 months to complete.

Ms. Gillard says she will seek “broad and substantial international support” for the decision at next month's NATO summit in Chicago. She expressed confidence that NATO leaders will “recognize mid-2013 as a key milestone in the international strategy,” as “the peoples of the world's democracies are weary of this war.”

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.