Uruzgan security switch ahead of schedule
KABUL (PAN): Australia on Tuesday hinted at withdrawing its troops from Afghanistan sooner than expected, saying that security in central Uruzgan province would transition to local forces ahead of schedule.
Australian troops would complete the switch in Uruzgan by the end of the current year, the defence minister told reporters in Perth. However, he said some troops would remain in the province even after the transition.
ABC quoted Stephen Smith as saying: "For some time, the prime minister and I have been saying that our advice and our expectation was that transition in Uruzgan province itself would occur either by the end of 2013 or by the first quarter of 2014."
But he added their current assessment was that the security transfer in Uruzgan would be completed by the end of this year in Uruzgan, where most of the 1,550 Australian troops are stationed within the ISAF framework.
Completing the switch, just like post-2014 arrangements, remained a huge challenge for the Australian, remarked Smith, who anticipated a reduced US military presence in Afghanistan beyond the pullout of NATO-led soldiers.
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