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Transcript of interview: ABC Radio National PM: 8 June 2010: Afghanistan; Australian casualties; Pakistan.

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Senator the Hon. John Faulkner   Minister for Defence 

08 Jun 2010  


Transcript: ABC Radio National PM

Topics: Afghanistan, Australian Casualties, Pakistan

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Reporter: Australia’s Defence Minister will attend a service for the soldiers at the Al Minhad airbase in the United Arab Emirates tomorrow as the bodies are being brought home. John Faulkner has been holding security talks in Pakistan. Senator Faulkner has warned that there will be an increase in violence in Afghanistan in the months ahead. He spoke to PM’s Samantha Hawley from Islamabad.

Senator Faulkner: The two fallen soldiers will leave Tarin Kowt. There will be a ramp ceremony tomorrow morning. They will go to Al Minhad airbase where there will be another ceremony that will be attended by myself and the Chief of the Defence Force. And after that the fallen soldiers will be returned home to Australia.

Reporter: The Australian death toll in Afghanistan continues to rise. It’s now standing at thirteen. Should Australians expect that that will continue to rise into the future?

Senator Faulkner: Well it’s a very difficult and dangerous environment in Afghanistan. Where Australian troops are engaged, which is in the southern region of Afghanistan obviously our efforts are focused in Oruzgan province, but southern Afghanistan is always recognised as the area of Afghanistan where the majority of fighting occurs.

Reporter: It seems to be getting worse. We, on Monday, had the bloodiest day in Afghanistan for foreign forces that we have had for a year. Are things getting worse in Afghanistan for foreign forces and particularly for Australian forces in the south of

the country?

Senator Faulkner: Well there’s no doubt that it is a particularly difficult time in Afghanistan. I am confident that the tide is turning in Afghanistan as has been said by our CDF and of course by General McChrystal who is the commander of the ISAF forces

Reporter: But you could understand why people would question that, given what we have seen in the last 24 hours?

Senator Faulkner: Of course, and I think it’s important that we are as frank as we can be about the risks that Australian soldiers face and of course all ISAF forces face in Afghanistan.

Reporter: And what’s your assessment? Do you believe, or can you say the coalition forces are actually winning this war, that the fight against the Taliban is being won, given what we have seen in the last 24 hours we’ve had 10 NATO troops lose their lives?

Senator Faulkner: I certainly believe that progress has been made. I also acknowledge that we might see an increase in the amount of violence also in the months ahead. I certainly think that’s absolutely possible that we will see a particularly violent period ahead.

Reporter: And will we see more Australian deaths? I presume that is a real possibility?

Senator Faulkner: Obviously I can only say to you that Australian troops, like other ISAF forces, are at great risk. There is always a risk of casualties. This is something that, as Australia’s Defence Minister, I have to be absolutely frank with you and all Australians about.

Reporter: I will just ask you lastly on Pakistan where you have been in recent days. Do you think the security situation in Pakistan is improving, is the country stabilising in your view?

Senator Faulkner: We talked about the very clear commitment that the Pakistan Government has also to deal with militant extremism in Pakistan. And I have made very clear the level of support Australia has for the Pakistan armed forces in the role that they are playing, also at great cost I might say. A significant number of Pakistan armed forces personnel and civilians have lost their lives in this battle.

Media contacts:

Colin Campbell (John Faulkner): 02 6277 7800 or 0407 787 181

Defence Media Liaison: 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664