“As the largest non-NATO contributor of troops in Afghanistan and indeed, one of the largest contributors overall, Australia remains an important partner in our joint endeavour,” said the Secretary General, speaking at a joint press conference after the meeting. He thanked the Prime Minister for the commitment and bravery of Australian troops and civilians working there.
He also commended Australia’s commitment to train Afghan soldiers and its contribution of €150 million to the Afghan National Army trust fund, making it the fund’s leading contributor.
“We share a common view that the mission in Afghanistan is vital for our own security interests. We face global threats to our security as the tragic events in London, Madrid and Bali have shown us. These threats require a concerted and collective response.”
The Secretary General said that, while ISAF’s presence in Afghanistan “would not be endless”, he would not fix an exit date as the process of transition will be conditions-based.
On the new Strategic Concept, he said that a key part of it will be a “refreshed approach” to NATO’s partnerships. He hoped that it will “open the door more widely to partnership between NATO and countries around the globe” and that Australia, if it chooses, “will have the opportunity to deepen its relationship with NATO in the future.”
Prime Minister Gillard said that Australia shares NATO’s determination and a commitment in Afghanistan. Pogress is being made in training the Afghan National Army in Uruzgan province as well as in Australia’s aid and reconstruction work, she said.
“Australia has been keen to ensure that we are included in all the discussions on the strategy in Afghanistan,” said the Prime Minister. “Australia would be looking towards having the ability to engage with NATO in a flexible way over time, and this is being debated through and discussed in the NATO Strategic Concept.”