April 17 - Australian Prime Minster Julia Gillard plans an early withdrawl of troops from Afghanistan. Julie Noce reports.
EDIT CONTAINS 4:3 MATERIAL Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard has moved up the withdrawal date for bringing home soldiers from Afghanistan and plans to discuss it during a NATO conference in Chicago next month. (SOUNDBITE)(English) JULIA GILLARD, PRME MINISTER OF AUSTRALIA SAYING: "ISAF has made clear that this will not mean the end of combat, combat support or training. But I'm now confident Chicago will recognise mid-2013 as a key milestone in the international strategy. A crucial point: when the international forces will be able to move to a supporting role across all of Afghanistan. I also expect President Karzai to make an announcement on transition in Uruzgan and other provinces in the coming months, including which areas of Uruzgan will begin the process first. Once started, this should take twelve to eighteen months. And when this is complete, Australia's commitment in Afghanistan will look very different to that we have today." Australia has played a supporting role in Afghanistan over the past 10 years. More than 15-hundred Australian troops are stationed there. Hundreds have been wounded and 32 were killed. Australian citizens say it's about time. (SOUNDBITE)(English) EMMA BRODIE, SALE MANAGER SAYING: "I think its a great move. I think it's long overdue and very timely." (SOUNDBITE)(English) UNNAMED AMERICAN WHO EMIGRATED TO AUSTRALIA SAYING: "I dont think they should have been there in the first place. It's an American war over oil and greed and Australia doesn't have any business being there. To support what? The regime run by George W Bush? Nah!" Gillard, who is under mounting political pressure to withdraw troops is up for re-election next year, but is expected to lose. Julie Noce, Reuters