Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Houston sees progress in Afghanistan

By Max Blenkin, Sydney Morning Herald

Progress in Afghanistan is steady and Australia will likely be able to hand responsibility for Oruzgan province's security to Afghan forces within three to five years, the defence chief says.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston said Australian troops had steadily extended their influence into Oruzgan province, clearing insurgents and establishing bases.

He said handing responsibility to Afghan security forces was a key objective with Australian forces making good progress in training the Afghan National Army 4th Brigade.

"I have always said in 3-5 years we will be in a position to transition responsibility for security to the 4th brigade and they will be of a level of capability where they can conduct complex brigade level operations to ensure the security of the province," he told reporters on Monday.

Air Chief Marshal Houston said Australia had trained Iraqi troops, eventually redeploying them to act as security backup, before withdrawing entirely.

He said there was much to be done in Afghanistan but the tide was turning against the insurgents and the coalition was making progress.

"Some clear signs of this are the improving capability of the Afghan National Security forces. Additionally 59 per cent of Afghans who were polled believe their country is heading in the right direction, up from 45 per cent from a year ago," he said.

"I firmly believe that progress in Afghanistan will not be in leaps and bounds. It will be slow and steady but over time we will prevail."

Air Chief Marshal Houston said Australian, coalition and Afghan forces had already achieved considerable success in Oruzgan.

For the full report click here for the Sydney Morning Herald

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