Australia taking lead in Afghanistan
AUSTRALIA would take the lead role from the United States in Afghanistan's Uruzgan province from the end of this year, Defence Minister Stephen Smith said on Thursday.
Since the withdrawal of the Dutch forces from the war-torn province in 2010, the United States has led operations with Australia as its deputy.
Minister Smith said the change would not involve a reduction in defence force troops on the ground from either country.
Instead, he said it would see the two nations switch roles in the Combined Team Uruzgan, with minor changes primarily occurring in the CTU headquarters.
Mr Smith said the change was not possible when the Dutch left in 2010 as Australia did not have enough resources to support operations at that time.
But he said the US had promised to retain its "enablers" - support resources such as helicopters and aero-medical supply.
Mr Smith said he was about to start considering ADF advice on Australia's long-term involvement in the Middle-Eastern nation past the planned transition to Afghan Security Forces in 2014.