Australia will assume the leadership of Combined Team - Uruzgan (CT-U) in Afghanistan in late 2012, taking over from the United States.
Australia's Defense Minister Stephen Smith and the Chief of the Defense Force General David Hurley announced on Thursday that the change was part of the transition process to transfer security responsibilities from the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to the Afghan National Security Forces.
The Australian-led CTU will continue to operate through the end of December 2014 in the central Afghan province, building upon the successes achieved in partnership with the U.S. who also serves in the province.
Uruzgan is due to commence the transition to Afghan-led security responsibility in the middle of this year.
CT-U was established in August 2010 with the role of commanding International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operations in Uruzgan Province.
The United States has led CT-U since it was established and will continue to provide enabling support in the Province.
There will not be an increase in the overall average size of Australia's presence in Uruzgan, Australia's Defense Department said in a press release.
The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) welcomed the announcement of the Australian government in committing its troops to assume operational responsibility of CTU.
General John R. Allen, commander of the coalition forces, expressed his deepest appreciation to the Australian government saying, "This commitment underscores in a very earnest and visible way, the commitment coming out of the Chicago Summit, and more specifically the commitment by one of our closest allies. Our gratitude goes out to the government of Prime Minister Julia Gillard and the Australian people, who have sacrificed so much in this conflict".
Australia is the largest contributor - among non-NATO members - to the ISAF with 1,550 troops deployed in Uruzgan.
Affectionately known as "Diggers," Australian soldiers are known for their fighting skills and successful mentorship, and serves as a critical force in suppressing insurgents and training Afghan National Security Forces.
by RTT Staff Writer
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