Just days after US President Joe Biden announced that the last US troops would be leaving Afghanistan by September, Australian PM Scott Morrison has made a similar announcement.
Speaking at a media conference yesterday (Thursday), Morrison confirmed the last Aussie forces would be out of the Central Asian country at the same time as its other allies and partners.
Over the past two years Australia has been reducing its military presence in Afghanistan from a high of over 1,500 personnel to around 80 personnel currently.
Prioritise military resources in Australia’s backyard
The withdrawal is in line with the Government’s policy, as set out in the 2020 Defence Strategic Update, to prioritise military resources in Australia’s Asia-Pacific backyard.
“This decision represents a significant milestone in Australia’s military history,” the Prime Minister said.
“Over the last 20 years, Australia has been a steadfast contributor to the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. Australia has fought alongside Coalition and Afghan partners to degrade the capabilities of terrorist organisations, including al-Qaeda.”
More than 39,000 ADF personnel have been deployed
Morrison noted that more than 39,000 Australian Defence Force personnel have deployed to help protect the safety and security of the Australian people at home and overseas, as well as safeguarding Afghanistan’s security.
But this has come at a cost. Since 2001, 41 Australian personnel have lost their lives while serving in Afghanistan and many more have been wounded or suffered mentally.
“The memories of all Australian Defence Force members who have lost their lives will continue to be honoured for their sacrifice and contribution to Australia’s mission in Afghanistan,” Morrison said.
“We also acknowledge all those Australians who have served in Afghanistan and the impact this has had on their lives.”
Complex challenge of making peace still lies ahead
He added: “The conflict has exacted an enormous toll on the Afghan people and the complex task of making peace lies ahead.
“Australia continues to support the peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban. We encourage both parties to commit to the peace process and call on the Taliban to cease the violence.”
According to the Prime Minister, Australia remains committed to helping Afghanistan preserve the gains of the last 20 years, particularly for women and girls.