Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced on Tuesday at an ASPI luncheon that Australia will bring its troops home from Afghanistan a year earlier than planned with most soldiers to be withdrawn out of the area in 2013.
Gillard said that she will take the pull-out timetable to a NATO summit in Chicago next month where she will put Australia’s view on the key questions before the international coalition.
"I'm now confident that Chicago will recognise mid-2013 as a key milestone in the international strategy," she said.
"A crucial point when the international forces will be able to move to a supporting role across all of Afghanistan."
A pull out date of 2014 has always been a time frame that Canberra has worked towards but the Prime Minister said Afghans would now be ready to take responsibility earlier.
She said the troops would begin leaving as soon as Afghan President Hamid Karzai declared that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) would take responsibility for Uruzgan province, where most Australian forces are based.
It is expected that Karzai will make the announcement within a few months and once he does, the withdrawal should take 12 to 18 months.
"And when this is complete, Australia's commitment in Afghanistan will look very different to that we have today," she said.
"We will have completed our training and mentoring mission with the 4th Brigade.
"We will no longer be conducting routine frontline operations with the Afghan National Security Forces
"And the majority of our troops will have returned home."
While most soldiers will return, she made clear Australia stood ready to "provide niche training to the Afghan National Security Forces after 2014".
"We are prepared to consider a limited Special Forces contribution -- in the right circumstances and under the right mandate," she said.
Australia has some 1,550 troops stationed in the strife-torn country and has so far lost 32 soldiers in the conflict.
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