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Aussies to leave Afghanistan by 2013

  |   April 17, 2012 at 1:28 PM
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CANBERRA, Australia, April 17 (UPI) -- Most of the 1,500 Australian troops deployed in Afghanistan will be home by the end of next year, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Tuesday.

Gillard told the Australian Strategic Policy Institute that roughly half of the conventional military operations and about 25 percent of the Special Operations in Afghanistan are led by national forces. Australian troops, she said, would begin the process of leaving the country by the middle of next year, an election year for Australia.

"What drives the timetable is the assessment by (International Security Assistance Force) and then by the Afghan government of transition, the right moment to enter transition, and that is based on an assessment of the growing capability of the Afghan National Security Forces," she said.

Afghan forces this week were praised for their response to a sustained attack on high-profile targets in Kabul.

Gillard said the process of withdrawing the estimated 1,500 troops should take about a year. The Australian government, however, committed to providing training for Afghan forces beyond 2014, the deadline for international forces to end their mission.

Most of the Australian forces are stationed in Uruzgan province. Around 30 Australian troops died in Afghanistan since combat operations began in 2001.

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