Australia PM notes near ending of Afghan war

Oct. 29, 2013 at 3:04 PM   |   Comments

KABUL, Afghanistan, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a surprise trip to Afghanistan, declaring a "bittersweet" end to combat operations after 12 years.

Speaking at an Australian-run base in Uruzgan province, Abbott told troops they will be home by Christmas, bringing an end to the nation's longest war, the Australian Broadcasting Corp. reported Tuesday.

"Australia's longest war is ending," he said. "Not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here."

Australia joined the international effort, led by the United States, to turn back the Taliban and hunt al-Qaida terrorists in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. In the 12 years since, Australia has spent more than $7.5 billion on military operations in Afghanistan, lost 40 soldiers -- with 260 others wounded in action.

"[It's] sweet because hundreds of soldiers will be home for Christmas; bitter because not all Australian families have had their sons, fathers and partners return," he said. "Sweet because our soldiers have given a magnificent account of themselves; bitter because Afghanistan remains a dangerous place despite all that has been done."

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