Progress being made in Afghanistan

Media release

Abu Dhabi

5 March 2011

Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd yesterday completed a three-day visit to Afghanistan, visiting Kabul and Tarin Kowt.

First and foremost, Mr Rudd's visit re-affirmed the Government's deep appreciation for the dedication and commitment shown by Australia's military and civilian personnel in Afghanistan.

"These last months have been tough, and the resilience of Australian men and women in the field is impressive," Mr Rudd said.

"What is encouraging, however, is the clear evidence of progress being made in our mission. Areas long under insurgent control have been cleared of the Taliban, including in a number of the districts in Uruzgan.

"Key roads between districts in Uruzgan, closed for many years, are now open, allowing ordinary Afghans to go about their daily lives. Better security is also allowing the Afghan Government to bring government services to more people.

"But let there be no mistake: these gains are fragile and the expected counter-attacks by insurgents in the coming fighting season will place them under pressure," Mr Rudd said.

In a meeting with President Karzai, Mr Rudd underlined Australia's long-term commitment to Afghanistan, and discussed plans for transition to an Afghan-led security by the end of 2014.

Mr Rudd also discussed with the President progress made against commitments entered into in the 2010 Kabul Conference, including the Afghan Government's efforts to improve governance and tackle corruption, as well as the international community's commitment to support the Afghan Government's development priorities.

In his meeting with the Commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), General David Petraeus, Mr Rudd underlined Australia's firm commitment to the mission in Afghanistan, which this year will see the start of the process of transition.

Mr Rudd also noted the valuable work of Australian officials at the Embassy in Kabul.

Earlier, in Tarin Kowt, the capital of Uruzgan province, Mr Rudd met the recently-appointed Provincial Governor, Mohammed Omar Shirzad.

"I'm encouraged by the good start made by Governor Shirzad in improving security and helping build the provincial administration's ability to deliver basic services to the people of Uruzgan," said Mr Rudd.

Mr Rudd took the opportunity while in Tarin Kowt to thank Australian civilian, military and police personnel for their service.

AFP officers are playing a key role in training police in Uruzgan, while Australian diplomats and aid workers, in difficult conditions, are helping the provincial government to build confidence and stability, as well as the capacity of government to deliver services to the people of Uruzgan.

Mr Rudd paid special tribute to the sacrifice made by members of the Australian Defence Force and to their bravery and commitment under dangerous conditions.

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