Australia and Afghanistan to be represented at NATO summit

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Today Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced Australia would accept an invitation to become an enhanced partner of NATO at the NATO conference later this week. The conference, being held in Wales, is to feature the ongoing situation in Afghanistan, who it was yesterday announced would be sending their defence minister, Bismullah Khan Muhammadi.

Plans had originally called for the new President, or President-elect, of Afghanistan to attend the summit after following the election in June, but the ongoing audit of votes has made this impossible. NATO are planning to withdraw troops stationed in Afghanistan at the end of this year, unless a new security agreement is signed to allow them stay beyond the end of the year, which the current Afghan President, Hamid Karzai has declined to sign before he leaves office. Both candidates have agreed in principal to sign the agreement.

The announcement of Muhammadi's appointment to lead the country's delegation followed a breakdown of talks on forming a unity government on Monday. Karzai has said he would not attend, and spokesmen for the two presidential candidates stated they had agreed to stay and focus on the recount of votes and talks on a power sharing deal between them when a result is announced.

Stars and Stripes reports the ongoing political stalemate negatively impacting the country's economy. The Taliban continue to launch attacks across the country.

The announcement of Australia formally strengthening ties with NATO follows on from the country's involvement in the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

In speeches recently, Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has indicated his country will be taking a more muscular foreign policy stance. Abbott has taken a firm stance against Russia's involvement in the current violence in Ukraine, with Australia announcing sanctions yesterday in support of the Ukrainian government.

Australia have also been involved in recent relief efforts in Iraq.

NATO's Enhanced Partnership Programme allows non-member states who have previously contributed to NATO military operations to gain a presence in NATO's governing bodies, alongside earlier access to military planning. Membership of the programme would allow Australia to decide the extent of its involvement in any NATO led military operations.

As well as Afghanistan the summit is also to address Russia's involvement in Ukraine, and the threat of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.