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Australian PM At NATO

  • October 5th, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

nato-flags.jpgJulia Gillard has made a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels, being told by the Secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the alliance is clearing the way for closer association  with “outside” countries, including Australia.

The Australian Prime Minister is in Europe for this week’s meeting of a 48-member summit, the Asia-Europe Meeting  (ASEM), after making a stop-over in Afghanistan on the way, (see EUAustralia Online, “Australian PM Brussels Visit”, 3.10.10).

Mr Rasmussen outlined a new strategic concept document that NATO is expected to adopt, at a summit in Lisbon next month.

It would increase the alliance’s scope for operations outside of the Atlantic region, and permit wider co-operation with so-called “contact” countries -  currently Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

Part of the agenda would be to step up action against terrorist activities, or cyber attacks.

“Australia will have the opportunity to deepen its relations with NATO,” the Secretary General said.

The Australian government under Prime Minister Kevin Rudd established regular consultations with the alliance, as it stepped up the country’s military commitment in Afghanistan, under NATO’s command structure – the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

Ms Gillard has been challenged by the Australian Opposition, since the recent Australian elections, to further increase the commitment, by adding heavy armour, and sending attack helicopters to take over from Dutch aircraft now in the process of being withdrawn.

In Brussels she said the force in Afghanistan had seen recent increases, up to some 1400 personnel now committed; tanks were not seen as appropriate in current conditions; the Australian side was discussing air support with the United States.

The Australian commitment puts emphasis on mentoring Afghan National Army (ANA) units, seeking to build them up to full military efficiency; a policy noted by the NATO Secretary General, who pointed out that Australia had become the biggest donor to a fund for equipping the ANA.

This had come to A$150 million, for the ANA Trust Fund, originally set up in 2007 to pay for transporting and installing equipment donated to the ANA by other powers

It was extended last year to support recurrent costs of the Afghan army, after a decision to expand the army from  86 000 to 134 000 troops.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation with 28 member countries in Europe and North America, has assembled an alliance of 47 states allocating 120 000 troops to the counter-insurgency war, and support for civil reconstruction in Afghanistan.

See also, EUAustralia Online NATO archive, including: “Losses in Afghanistan”, 26.8.10; “Dutch Afghanistan Departure”, 2.810; “Minister in EU …”, 25.2.10.

Reference

Emma Alberici, “NATO eager to deepen Australian ties”, (with AFP), ABC Online, Australia, 3.10.10. www.abc.net.au, (3.10.10).

NATO, Brussels, The Afghan National Army  Trust Fund. http://www.nato.int/isaf/topics/ana/index.html. 3.10.10.

Picture  NATO headquarters, Brussels

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