AUSTRALIA is five weeks away from signing a crucial strategic agreement with Afghanistan that could cost hundreds of millions of dollars and outline Australia’s postwar role there, but the government has yet to inform the public of its existence.
The previously unrevealed pact, disclosed by the office of the Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, this week, is a strategic agreement that will mean Canberra provides hundreds of millions of dollars in aid in the post-2014 decade.
The international community has set the end of 2014 as the deadline for all international combat operations in Afghanistan. After that time security will be the sole responsibility of the Afghan Army and the Afghan National Police.
Advertisement: Story continues below Yesterday, the office of the Defence Minister, Stephen Smith, who visited Afghanistan this week and met Mr Karzai, said the document did not relate to his portfolio, and referred the Herald to the Foreign Affairs Minister.
However, a statement released from Mr Karzai’s office on Wednesday after a meeting with Mr Smith appeared to contradict that view. It said: ”[The] Australian Defence Minister said Australia is interested in forging a strategic partnership with Afghanistan.”
The release went on to discuss a draft of the agreement, recently handed to the Afghan Foreign Ministry, and said it would be signed by both countries during a NATO summit in Chicago on May 20 and 21. ”Minister Smith … hoped that the draft be finalised as soon as possible by the governments of the two countries,” the statement said.
Another statement on Wednesday, from Afghanistan’s Australian embassy, also referred to the plan, saying it covered long-term co-operation involving ”security, development, trade and investment, cultural and people-to-people links and migration and humanitarian affairs”.
The agreement was mentioned ”in passing” during a conversation with Mr Karzai, the spokesman said, but ”did not concern either the content or detail”.
Despite that, it does not appear the Prime Minister, Mr Smith or Senator Carr have told the Australian public about the agreement.
Yesterday Mr Smith’s office pointed to a speech by Ms Gillard to Parliament on November 21 as referring to the agreement. More than 20 minutes into a half-hour speech, Ms Gillard mentioned talks with Mr Karzai about a ”long-term framework agreement for the future of the Australia-Afghanistan partnership”.
”This kind of co-operative country-to-country approach is an important framework for our long-term plans,” she said. ”We seek an enduring relationship with Afghanistan beyond 2014 as Afghanistan takes on responsibility for its own security and governance.”
That appears to be the only time she or anyone else in her government has discussed a bilateral plan with Afghanistan. No detail has been provided – then or since.
There has been an intense debate within the international community about what support will be provided to Mr Karzai’s Afghan postwar state. The US has said at least $4.1 billion a year will be needed to support the Afghan military and police alone, but after years of huge spending on Afghanistan, some European countries are keen to scale back support.
The Australian agreement will complement a similar agreement between the US and Afghanistan.
So While we (Our governmental servants that is) are borrowing $100 million dollars per day to meet Australias Daily running costs to pay for :
1 Their Self appointed Wage Rises,
2 All the Adds for the Carbon Tax
3 Not to mention the BER and the Pink Bat scheme or the Solar Hot Water scheme