The winds of change in Uruzgan

Stephen Smith announces Tarin Kot to be shut by year's end

UP TO 1000 Australian troops in Afghanistan will be home by the end of the year, after the multi-national force decided to officially close down the Tarin Kot base at the end of 2013.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith on Tuesday described the decision by the International Security Assistance Force as one of the three most significant days in the history of Australia's involvement in the conflict.

He said with the closure of the Tarin Kot base, the 1000 or so troops stationed there would definitely be brought home by the end of the year.

At present, there are about 1650 Australian troops in Afghanistan, with the remaining 650 troops stationed at bases in Kandahar and Kabul to stay, subject to further international negotiations on the future of the conflict.

Mr Smith said the announcement on Tuesday was in line with previous projections, and comes after meetings he attended in Chicago and Lisbon last year on the withdrawal.

The multi-national base Tarin Kot comprises two different camps - Camp Russell and Camp Holland - with Camp Holland to be disbanded by year's end.

Mr Smith said Camp Russell, where Australian Special Forces troops were currently stationed, would remain, but all responsibility for that camp would be handed over to the Afghan National Security Force by the end of 2013.

He said any remaining troops at Camp Holland would also be transferred to Afghan responsibilities by the end of the year, with that camp to be closed.

Mr Smith and Defence Force Chief General David Hurley also announced the first Battle Honour to be awarded since the Vietnam War.

General Hurley said the Special Air Service Regiment and 2nd Commando Regiment would receive the rare honour for their roles in the Shah Wali Kot Offensive last year.

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