Australia to decide on its future military presence in Afghanistan after consulting Western allies

The Australian government will take a decision on its military presence in Afghanistan beyond 2016 after consulting its Western allies later this year.

The announcement was made by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop during her visit to Kabul on Monday to spend the Australia Day with Australian troops in the country and to assure the new Afghan government of Australia’s continued commitment.

“We believe in the Afghan people. We believe in their right to live in a stable, secure and prosperous environment,” said Ms. Bishop in a press briefing at the Australian Embassy in Kabul.

President Ashraf Ghani, during his meeting with Ms. Bishop, asked her to review the planned withdrawal in 2016

During her visit to Kabul, Ms. Bishop met President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive, Abdullah Abdullah, and a group of female parliamentarians.

“Over the past 10 years or more we have seen extraordinary gains in opportunities for women – in education, in health, in the number of women who are able to participate in society,” Ms. Bishop said.

President Ashraf Ghani, during his meeting with Ms. Bishop, urged her to review the planned withdrawal in 2016. President Ghani, according to reports, urged the visiting Australian Minister to stay involved in the country beyond 2016.

Almost 400 Australian troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan, and the number is likely to drop to 20-30 by the end of next year as planned.

However, according to military analysts, the decision is likely to be reviewed later this year when the leaders of U.S. and European countries meet to discuss their future engagement in Afghanistan.

Reaffirming Australia’s commitment to help in reconstruction efforts, Ms. Bishop also announced an additional aid of 300 million USD to Afghanistan, which will be spent on civil reconstruction projects over the next two years.

Speaking at a press conference with Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Ms. Bishop said the aid would be spent on developing private sector in Afghanistan. Dr. Abdullah thanked the Australian government for its continued support to Afghanistan.

Australia has so far spent one A$1billion in aid in Afghanistan. However, the current government under Tony Abbott has decreased the aid from A$148.3million last year to A$134.5million in 2014-2015.

“I am acutely conscious of the needs here, and I will ensure that the progress we have made and the gains we have made for the programmes to empower women will not be lost through the Australian aid programme,” she said.

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