On 17th April 2012, Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered a policy speech outlining Australia's engagement in Afghanistan through and beyond the transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces.
This process will be completed by the end of 2014. She touched on the background of the mission in Afghanistan and reminded Australians that it was and is in this country's national security interests to be part of the mission along with the United States and other Nato allies. The Prime Minister pointed to the historic successes we've achieved together in the past decade, including the removal of Osama Bin Laden, and the training and equipping of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) who are today in a better position to look after the security of their own people independently.
While some rushed to frame the speech as an announcement of early withdrawal of the Australian Defence Forces (ADF) from Afghanistan, the speech was in fact a reaffirmation of Australia's continuous commitment and support to Afghanistan's long-term security and development. The PM was clear in Australia's pledge to contribute funding to the long-term sustainment of the ANSF beyond 2014, an enduring commitment that the Afghan government is vying to receive from other allies for the period of 2015-2025, by which time Afghanistan will hopefully be able to fully fund our security forces from domestic revenues.
After 10 years of the international community's presence in Afghanistan of which only past three years had meaningful policy and funding focus, we Afghans are determined to take full ownership and leadership of our own affairs. In doing so, we are in the process of taking over the security responsibilities; continuing our efforts in the framework of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and actively advancing bilateral and multilateral cooperation at the regional and international levels. Building on the achievements of the past ten years, the Afghan people are determined to overcome the current challenges, secure peace and provide a better future for our children.
As we proceed, enduring and concrete international support will remain vital to our success. The international community's firm commitment to Afghanistan for the decade beyond 2014 will assure the Afghan people that they will not be abandoned once again. Any repeat of the international community's mistake of the 1990s when Afghanistan was left to international terrorists and their supporters in the region will undoubtedly result in the repeat of 9/11 in the US, 7/7 in London and Bali in Indonesia. A firm commitment to the country beyond 2014, on the other hand, will send the right message to the Taliban, Al Qaeda and their supporters that, contrary to their calculations, time is not on their side.
Cognisant of this fact, Afghanistan and Australia negotiated a "Comprehensive Long-term Partnership" which has been signed by President Karzai and Prime Minister Gillard in Chicago yesterday, May 20 2012. This partnership document creates a framework for bilateral cooperation in the political, security, development, trade and investment, immigration and humanitarian affairs and cultural and people to people contacts for a period of ten years.
This partnership builds on our historical relationship, shared interests in peace and security and common values such as respect for the sovereignty and independence, cooperation in international and regional forums, respecting and advancing democracy, human rights and promoting and protecting the rights of Afghan women and girls. It will guide and further strengthen a young but resilient bilateral relationship between Australia and Afghanistan over the next decade.
Majority of the Australian troopers will be home by the end of 2014, but they will have left Afghanistan a transformed country: a young democracy that is a long-term strategic ally in a key region of the world. The Afghanistan-Australia enduring long-term partnership ensures ongoing support to such an Afghanistan and further strengthens the solid foundation of friendship and cooperation between our two countries.
Nasir Andisha is the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Canberra, Australia.