Most Aussie troops in Afghanistan coming home by end of 2013

THE final months of Australia's involvement in Afghanistan will remain difficult and dangerous, but almost all troops will be home by the end of 2013, a parliamentary update from Defence Minister Stephen Smith yesterday has revealed.

While the update confirms commitments the Commonwealth had already made to hand over to the Afghan National Army, the statement also reveals the progress made since the start of the year.

It showed since Minister Smith's last parliamentary update, major in-roads had been made to the hand-over, including control of the more dangerous Forward Operating Bases and Patrol Bases in Uruzgan to Afghan forces.

"Over the past few years, Australia has had approximately 1550 personnel in Afghanistan," the statement reads.

"With the shift in focus from training and mentoring to advising and supporting, the 680-strong 3RAR Taskforce was replaced by the 330-strong 7RAR Task Group in November last year.

"The overall number of ADF personnel will not substantially decrease until towards the end of 2013, as additional personnel are deployed temporarily to support the transition and redeployment effort."

Since Australia became involved in the Afghanistan conflict, there have been 39 casualties, with seven in 2012, while there have been 249 Australian troops wounded in the conflict since 2001, 33 last year, and three since the start of 2013.

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