Commander says Afghan job will soon be done | Herald Sun

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Commander says Afghan job will soon be done | Herald Sun

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Diggers will be able to hand over security to Afghan forces within 18 months, according to Commander of Joint Operations Lt-Gen Ash Power. Picture: LS Paul Berry Supplied

MOST of the Australian forces in Afghanistan will have finished their job by the end of next year, their commander says.

Commander of Joint Operations Lt-Gen Ash Power said the Diggers would be able to hand over security to Afghan forces in Oruzgan province between six and 18 months from the start of 2012.

That is more than two years ahead of the deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops set by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

An early draw down or "transition" would relieve pressure on the Gillard Government from the growing anti-war movement.

One of the four battalions being trained by the Australians is ready for independent operations and the other three will follow during the next 18 months.

"We are setting up the 4th Brigade to be prepared to start its transition process," Lt-Gen Power said. "My assessment is that sometime early next year Oruzgan may well be announced as being very close to, if not ready for, transition.

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"That will then take six to 18 months for transition. Certainly, I would like to see as many Australian soldiers come back out of Afghanistan as possible."

Lt-Gen Power said no one had put pressure on him to speed up the process and he was not pushing to accelerate the transition.

"It is conditions-based. The Afghans are ready to take charge," he said.

He predicted the level of violence would fall in Oruzgan during 2012.

His comments were supported by the commander on the ground in the Middle East, and soon-to-be deputy chief of army, Major-General Angus Campbell, who joined the briefing at the new Joint Control Centre outside Canberra via video link from his headquarters at Al Minhad air base near Dubai.

"The insurgency is clearly disrupted in Oruzgan, but it is not defeated," he said.

Lt-Gen Power also revealed the Diggers had adopted new security practices to ensure they were better protected from attacks by rogue Afghan soldiers.

Despite a massive manhunt, he said there was no sign of an Afghan soldier who wounded three Diggers last month.

The new $300 million control centre 30km from Canberra has 100 staff who work around the clock monitoring military operations around the globe from a bank of massive TV screens.

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