Canberra: Australia has announced it will contribute USD 100 million annually for three years beginning in 2015 to support Afghan National Security Forces after they take responsibility for their country's security.
   
Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Defence Minister Stephen Smith said in a joint statement on Wednesday they will take this commitment to the NATO and US-led International Security Assistance Force summit in Chicago on Sunday and Monday.
   
This follows Australia's commitment to the Afghan National Army Trust Fund of USD 200 million over five years beginning in 2009-10. Afghanistan will have responsibility for its own security by the end of 2014.
   
"Australia has a vital national interest in supporting Afghanistan's stability and security after transition," the statement said. Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan and is the largest military contributor to the campaign outside NATO. Australia also contributes the third largest number of Special Forces elite troops.
   
Wednesday's statement said Australia will consider an ongoing Special Forces presence in Afghanistan, if requested, after the Afghans take control. The White House announced that President Barack Obama spoke to Gillard by telephone late Monday and "expressed appreciation for Australia's significant contributions" in Afghanistan and the prime minister's leadership.
   
The Australian statement said the government will maintain a substantial development assistance program in Afghanistan beyond 2014 to help provide services such as education and health.

(Agencies)

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