(KABUL, Afghanistan) — Coalition troops are heading home from Afghanistan one year earlier than scheduled but they won’t be American soldiers.
Australia, one of Washington’s most dependable allies in the war, has announced that it will pull out virtually all of its 1,500 boots from Afghanistan before the end of 2013, rather than 2014 as previously planned.
The exit strategy was announced Tuesday by Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who declared, “This is a war with a purpose, this is a war with an end.”
All told, Australia has lost 32 soldiers during the 10-year-long conflict with another 218 wounded.
According to Gillard, the accelerated withdrawal was made possible by Australia helping to secure Oruzgan province while the training of the Afghan National Army has gone better than expected.
She said her government would continue to help finance the fragile Afghan democracy and provide training for Afghan forces during the coming years.
Polls show that an overwhelming majority of Australians want to end the military commitment in Afghanistan as soon as possible.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN