(SYDNEY) -- For all intents and purposes, Australia's military contribution to the Afghanistan war is over. Prime Minister Tony Abbott made that declaration during a surprise visit last Monday to Australian troops stationed at Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province. Abbot told his soldiers, "Australia’s longest war is ending -- not with victory, not with defeat, but with, we hope, an Afghanistan that is better for our presence here."
In an official statement released Tuesday, Abbott said the mission was critical to Australia's national security. However, Richard Tanter, a professor of International Relations at Melbourne University, says Australia should have pulled out shortly after the Taliban was overthrown in late 2001, arguing there was no other reason to stay.
There are currently 1,500 Australian troops in Afghanistan, most of whom will be brought home by Christmas. Abbott's plan is to leave behind several hundred to serve in training and advisory capacities.
Since October 2001, 40 Australian forces have been killed in the war. The death toll of coalition forces is nearly 3,400 coalition troops, about 2,300 of them American.
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