PM Turnbull visits Australian troops in Iraq, Afghanistan ahead of Obama meeting

MALCOLM Turnbull visited troops in Afghanistan and Iraq ahead of his first White House meeting

SYDNEY – Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced on Monday a small increase in the Australian troop commitment to the NATO-led force supporting the Afghan central government during a surprise visit to Kabul.

Australia, which lost 41 soldiers in Afghanistan during its more than 12-year involvement in the conflict following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, will commit 20 more personnel to the mission, bringing its total to 270.

We say that Afghanistan is a long way from Australia … but everything is very close and very connected

Mr Turnbull’s weekend visits to Iraq and Afghanistan – both of which are being helped by the ADF to battle Islamic extremists – have given him a first-hand insight into developments as he prepares to meet with US President Barack Obama.

Mr Turnbull spoke with Australian Defence Force personnel as well as aid workers, military trainers and force protection officers.

The Prime Minister also received top-level briefings about the NATO-led train, advise and assist mission Resolute Support, involving ADF personnel, which replaced the previous International Security Assistance Force mission.

He told Australian troops at Qarga, the Afghan national army officer academy, Afghanistan’s leadership enormously appreciated their work.

“You are making a real difference to the evolution of Afghanistan to a point where it can stand on its own two feet and maintain its own security,” Mr Turnbull said.

He said the work was not only important for Afghanistan’s future but in the global security effort.

“We say that Afghanistan is a long way from Australia … but everything is very close and very connected,” Mr Turnbull said.

“So enabling Afghanistan to be safer, to be more secure, to be able to defend itself with their own people is absolutely critical to the world’s security and indeed to ours.”

Turnbull, speaking at the Australian Embassy in Kabul, defended the decision despite rejecting a request last week from U.S. President Barack Obama to commit more Australian forces to the fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.

“The truth is that in 2016, nowhere is a long way from anywhere. The world is so connected, more than it has ever been before. It is absolutely critical that we recognize that security is a global issue,” Turnbull said.

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