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Transcript of interview: 3AW Radio, Derryn Hinch Drive Program: 9 June 2010: Afghanistan.



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Senator the Hon. John Faulkner   Minister for Defence 

09 Jun 2010                                                                                                                         MIN100609/10 

INTERVIEW: 3AW RADIO - DERRYN HINCH DRIVE PROGRAM

Topics: Afghanistan

Reporter:

John Faulkner Good Afternoon. This is a terrible time, and look I don’t want to put this in a bad way, but I’ve suddenly realised what the cost has been for all the other troops there too, NATO troops, a little breakdown - we’ve lost, the Canadians have lost more than 140 men, Italy’s lost 24, of course the United States has lost more than a thousand. It’s a huge price that’s been paid there over the years.

Senator Faulkner:

There certainly is a very significant cost. The cost of human life is incalculable when you think of the families that are affected. But of course I think that we always have to understand the critical importance of what Australian and other NATO and non-NATO countries who are involved in the ISAF forces in Afghanistan are doing. Australia is one of 46 international partners operating under a UN mandate in Afghanistan and the work that’s being done there under that UN mandate to ensure that country returns to security and stability and doesn’t again become a training ground and safe haven for terrorists is something that is absolutely of critical importance to Australia and the rest of the international community.

Reporter:

It is true that Al Qaeda has suffered some heavy losses over the recent months as a result of those drone planes in Afghanistan and also in Pakistan. Several top leaders have been killed there. But how long can Australia stay? President Obama is talking about withdrawing within the year. Do we follow their yardstick or their timetable? What happens?

Senator Faulkner:

President Obama has spoken of a transition to Afghan responsibility for security commencing in the middle of next year. I’ve been asked this often as you can imagine and I’ve consistently reiterated the best advice that we’ve had from our Australian Defence leadership, that is that Australia’s operational objective in Afghanistan, that is to train, mentor and partner the Afghan National Army fourth brigade in Oruzgan province will be completed in some three to five years. This is of course the critical objective.

Reporter:

So we are there for another five years?

Senator Faulkner:

No. Well I’m obviously hopeful that it will be complete in three years, then we’d look at…

Reporter:

So are we looking at three years?

Senator Faulkner:

I think we can say that our task to train the ANA fourth brigade, so it will be responsible for itself, for security and stability in the Oruzgan province in Afghanistan will take that period of time and after that’s completed - which is why we’ve used terminology like three to five years - I’m sure there’ll be some remaining overwatch responsibilities after that task is completed.

Reporter:

So when I say, we’ve been there eight years and we could be there for another eight years, that’s not far fetched?

Senator Faulkner:

I think that would be inaccurate, I believe that we will have completed our task, which is train the ANA fourth brigade in between three and five years.

Reporter:

Ok fair enough,

Senator Faulkner:

… and I can’t give you any better timing that that, because that’s what the Australian Defence Force leadership have consistently said. Obviously, that doesn’t mean eight years, it means at least three years and there will be some residual responsibilities for Australia I believe once that task is completed, but this is not only of course a role for the Australian military. We’re also engaged in development assistance and other civilian support in Aghanistan as well and I don’t think that anyone would think that Australia’s responsibilities would just end overnight. I’m sure that Australia will continue to provide that sort of development aid and assistance over the longer term to Afghanistan.

Reporter:

Alright Senator Faulkner, I thank you for your time.

Senator Faulkner: Thank you very much.

Media contacts:

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

Defence Media Liaison: 02 6127 1999 or 0408 498 664