(UPI) -- Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott declared the end of his country's war in Afghanistan during a surprise visit to the country.
Abbott said that the decision to bring home more than 1,000 troops before Christmas would be a "bittersweet" move as Afghanistan continues to be a very dangerous place.
The primer minister made the announcement while speaking at a special ceremony at the Australian-run base in Tarin Kot in Urugan province. He pledged to continue to support the country in the future. Australia has committed to train Afghan National Security Forces. In addition, hundreds of Australians will stay in the country in non-combat roles.
“Australia's longest war is ending not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that's better for our presence here,” Abbott said.
He added that Australia did not fight wars of conquest but for people's right to live their own life.
According to Abbott, Australian troops in Afghanistan have helped build schools, health clinics and to upgrade roads. During their time in the country 40 Australians have died and 260 have been wounded.
Richard Tanter, a Professor of International Relations at Melbourne University, said Australia's involvement in Afghanistan served no purpose but to maintain the country's alliance with the United States.
“In no sense has it been worth it," he said. "There was never a serious Australian strategic interest in the occupation and the war in Afghanistan for more than a decade and a half. The Taliban government was overthrown within three months of the initial invasion. If there was ever a justification for going in there, that was the time to get out. Since then we've stayed there simply because it was a requirement of our alliance with the United States, so-called alliance maintenance.”