Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott visited Afghanistan to mark the end of Australia’s longest military commitment in a war.
The mission in the southern province of Uruzgan is drawing down and 1,000 Australian troops currently serving in Afghanistan will have returned home by the end of the year, Abbott said in a ceremony. Forty Australians have been killed in the conflict and another 260 wounded, according to the Department of Defense.
The mission in Afghanistan “has been critical to our national security,” Abbott said in a statement after the visit, where he was joined by opposition leader Bill Shorten. Australia has worked to ensure the South Asian nation doesn’t again become a haven for terrorists, he said.
Australia invoked its defense treaty with the U.S. following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks triggered a worldwide tightening of security. Dozens of Australian citizens have been killed in attacks overseas since then, including 88 in bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali in 2002, and three in an assault by suicide bombers on two luxury hotels in Jakarta in 2009.
“It was important to reaffirm Australia’s ongoing commitment to support Afghanistan’s security, governance and development in 2014 and beyond,” Abbott said in the statement. “Australia will not walk away from Afghanistan but it will be for the Afghan people to determine their own future.”