The last Australian commander of international forces in Oruzgan Province has started work.
Colonel Wade Stothart officially took over as Commander of Combined Team Oruzgan this week and will hold the job until December 31 when the mission officially ends.
Then Australian and other international troops will withdraw.
Colonel Stothart replaced Colonel Simon Stuart, who started in October 2012, overseeing the transition of security responsibility to the Afghan National Army (ANA) 4th Brigade.
Throughout the year the ANA and Afghan National Police have demonstrated their ability to secure the province, surprising insurgents with their strength and cohesion, he said.
“They have hit the insurgents hard, have built on our gains, and are growing in confidence with each independent operation.”
Australian troops in Oruzgan are in the process of ending the mission, dismantling the base at Tarin Kowt and dispatching equipment back home.
Colonel Stuart said it was a complex job to reduce infrastructure and personnel on the base while retaining what’s needed to see the mission through to the end of the year.
“We have a deliberate plan to achieve this and we are working closely with our Afghan partners to ensure it is done efficiently and in a way that leaves them able to sustain independent security operations when we leave,” he said.
Colonel Stuart said Australian troops have made great improvements in the province.
From a single under-resourced hospital inaccessible to much of the population, Oruzgan now features greatly improved medical services available to people in every district. Similarly, the education system has vastly improved.
“Our legacy here will be a foundation from which the Afghans can build a future in their own vision. It will not be perfect but the government is now equipped to tackle the challenges that lay ahead,” he said.