Today I announce the appointment of Mr Richard Feakes as Australia's Ambassador to Afghanistan.

Australia has a close relationship with Afghanistan, working together on security, economic development, and securing the rights of women and children. Our relations are enhanced by strong sporting ties and the work of Australians of Afghan origin throughout our community.

Australia has provided over $1 billion in development assistance to Afghanistan since 2001. At the July 2016 NATO Summit in Warsaw, Australia extended its US$100 million per annum contribution to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces to 2020.

Australian Defence Force personnel will also continue to make an important contribution to the NATO-led mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces into 2017.

Mr Feakes is a senior career officer of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and was most recently Assistant Secretary in the Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia Branch. He has previously served overseas as Deputy Head of Mission in Baghdad, with an earlier posting to Port Moresby. In Canberra, Mr Feakes also worked in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet's International Division.

Mr Feakes holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) from the University of New South Wales, a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Sydney and a Masters of Arts (Foreign Affairs) from Monash University. He is expected to take up his appointment in August 2016.

I thank outgoing Ambassador Matthew Anderson PSM for his work in strengthening Australia's relations with Afghanistan since 2015.

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