Diggers have withdrawn from all forward operating and patrol bases in the southern Afghan province of Oruzgan, marking a major point in Australia's exit from the conflict.
Defence Minister Stephen Smith will confirm today that the Afghan Army has been handed full responsibility for all forward bases in the province and all Australian troops have pulled back to the regional base at Tarin Kowt.
The shift will greatly reduce the threat to most Australian soldiers in Afghanistan and reduce the Diggers' contact with Afghan locals.
Since beginning operations in Oruzgan in 2006, Australia has slowly built up a network of dozens of small patrol bases across the province, sometimes manned by only a dozen or more Diggers living in primitive conditions.
The sprawling base at Tarin Kowt is comparatively safe, boasting an airfield, armoured accommodation units and well-equipped messes.
It is likely most of the Australian troops will be out of the country by mid next year.
The commander of Australian troops in Afghanistan, Colonel Simon Stuart, said all Afghan infantry units trained by Australian forces were operating independently and able to take control of the forward bases.Although Australian commanders have been quick to talk up the abilities of the local Afghan troops, many observers cast doubt on the ability of the Afghan security forces to keep the country together in the long term.
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