Prime Minister Tony Abbott arrived in Afghanistan on Monday to attend a special ceremony at the ADF-operated Tarin Kowt base in Uruzgan province.
While speaking during the ceremony, the Australian Prime Minister confirmed the Australian mission in the region would wind down by the end of the year.
He said the involvement of the Australian forces in Afghanistan was ending, “not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here”.
He described the withdrawal as “bitter-sweet”. “Sweet because hundreds of soldiers will be home for Christmas. Bitter because not all Australian families have had their sons, fathers and partners return,” Tony Abbott quoted in a statement carried by AFP.
“Our mission in Afghanistan has been critical to our national security,” Abbott further added in his statement.
“We have worked to ensure Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorists and have worked with our allies to make the world a safer place,” the statement added.
“People have paid a high price. We have lost 40 of our best.” More than 20,000 Australians have served in Afghanistan, with 40 killed in action and 260 wounded since 2001 when Australia joined close ally the United States to fight the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
In the meantime, Abbott reaffirmed Australia’s commitment to support Afghanistan in the future, notably with training for the Afghan National Security Forces and development assistance.