Australia, a military ally of the U.S., will contribute $300 million starting 2015 to support Afghanistan’s forces after the Asian nation becomes responsible for its own security, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said today.
The government will contribute $100 million a year for three years, Gillard, who attends a North Atlantic Treaty Organization summit on Afghanistan in Chicago on May 20-21, said in a statement.
Australia has about 1,500 troops in Afghanistan and said last month the majority of its forces will withdraw by as early as mid-2013. During a surprise visit to Afghanistan earlier this month, President Barack Obama defended the 2014 deadline for NATO members to transfer all combat operations to Afghan security forces.
“To consolidate and build on the security gains of the transition strategy, the Afghan National Security Forces will need ongoing funding and training and mentoring support,” Gillard, who spoke by telephone with Obama yesterday, said in the statement. “Australia has a vital national interest in supporting Afghanistan’s stability and security after transition.”
Gillard and Obama “discussed their shared objectives” for the Chicago summit, including the importance of “support for Afghanistan’s security and economic development beyond 2014,” the prime minister’s office said in a statement yesterday.
Australia announced May 8 it will cut defense spending by A$5.4 billion ($5.4 billion) over four years as Gillard attempts to return the budget to surplus next year. The prime minister is allowing 2,500 U.S. Marines to be based in the northern city of Darwin after agreeing with Obama last year to increase cooperation and allow a greater regional presence for American forces.
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