NATO Secretary General pays tribute to Australian forces
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen paid a personal tribute to Australian Defence Force personnel on Thursday 14 June, thanking them for their contribution to the Alliance’s mission in Afghanistan
The Secretary General met with armed forces personnel who have just recently returned from Afghanistan in the Australian capital of Canberra. Australia currently has 1,550 troops stationed in Afghanistan, making it the largest non-NATO contributor to the ISAF mission.
“Since the very early days of the international effort in Afghanistan, Australia has contributed much and sacrificed much in our common effort to ensure that the country would never again be a safe haven for terrorists,” the Secretary General told Australian Defence Force soldiers. “To each and every one of you, let me say this: you are doing a remarkable job, with great courage, great skill and great determination. On behalf of NATO and our ISAF partners, thank you all.”
The Secretary General praised Australia’s staunch support to the ISAF mission and said the Alliance was particularly grateful for Australia’s recent announcement that it would assume the leadership of the ISAF effort in Uruzgan Province later this year. He also thanked the Australian government’s decision to stay committed to NATO’s mission in Afghanistan after 2014, when the Alliance’s main combat role will switch to one of training, advising and mentoring Afghan National Security Forces.
“Because of you, we now see considerable progress in Afghanistan,” Mr. Fogh Rasmussen said. “We are steadily handing over security responsibility to the Afghan National Security Forces and we will complete our combat mission by the end of 2014.”
Just ahead of his meeting with the soldiers, the Secretary General laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Australian Soldier at the Australian War Memorial to honour those who lost their lives during service in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
The tribute came ahead of talks with Australia’s Prime Minister Julia Gillard, Defence Minister Stephen Smith, and other top Australian officials in Canberra later on Thursday. The Secretary General will also travel to Sydney.