Australia to Increase Support in Afghanistan
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a long-term partnership that will increase Australia’s aid spending in Afghanistan from $165 million to $250 million per year by 2015-16, Sky News reported today.
The two leaders spoke after the NATO summit in Chicago today where the future of Afghanistan post-war was a primary discussion topic among more than 50 world leaders.
The agreement outlines how Australia will continue to support the nation by assisting with peacekeeping, controlling narcotics and people smuggling, and helping facilitate business and investment opportunities.
“The aid will help Afghanistan expand basic service delivery in health and education and improve governance and public financial management,” Ms Gillard said.
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The Australian PM met with several national leaders independently in order to discuss their support strategies, including new French President Francois Hollande who has pledged to withdraw French combat troops from the region by the end of the year. Other NATO nations are encouraged to follow suit, according to a statement issued by the Taliban.
"We call upon all the other NATO member countries to avoid working for the political interests of American officials and answer the call of your own people by immediately removing all your troops from Afghanistan,” the statement said.
Ms Gillard also met with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to discuss reopening the supply lines through Pakistan into Afghanistan. Until a supply line deal is finalised, US President Barack Obama is reportedly refusing to meet with the Pakistani President.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Mr Obama said, “We're confident that we are on the right track, and what this NATO summit reflects is that the world is behind the strategy that we've laid out.”