Diggers to end Afghan mentor role
Australia's major combat role in Afghanistan is likely to end by December, with an announcement overnight that the ADF will soon be finished mentoring the four Afghan battalions in Oruzgan.
The announcement, made by the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, at a NATO conference in Brussells overnight, also means that Australia's presence in the southern Afghan province will dramatically decrease early next year.
Mr Smith's statement follows his announcement on Wednesday that the first of the four 400 - 600 man Afghan National Army battalions - called kandaks in Afghanistan - was this week declared to be able to operate without asssistance.
"We expect the other three infantry kandaks currently rated as effective with advisers to also commence independent operations by the end of the year."
Australia's main role in Oruzgan is to mentor Afghan soldiers and accompany them on patrols and other operations.
But Mr Smith's statement - that mentoring at a kandak level will be over by January - means that role is all but finished.
"What this means is we are gong to start seeing Australian convoys rolling down to Kandahar, moving equipment out of Oruzgan by early next year," said Lowy Institute analyst James Brown.
Kandahar, the province directly south of Oruzgan, is the headquarters for the country's southern region and is where Australia will likely move their personnel and equipment ahead of leaving the country.
Mr Brown, who has served with the Australian army in Iraq and Afghanistan, said what the announcement meant was after more than a decade, Australia's major combat role in Oruzgan was only weeks from ending.
"What they're saying is the job is done," he said.
"Which means we don't need to have advisors out with [the ANA in Oruzgan] over the winter.
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