CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Monday to mark the impending end of Australia's military involvement in the conflict, his office said.
Abbott arrived at the Australian headquarters at Tarin Kowt under tight security for a ceremony to mark the end of Australia's involvement in the war that has cost the lives of 40 Australian soldiers over more than a decade, the Prime Minister's office said in a statement.
The headquarters will be given to the Afghan army and most of Australia's 1,500 troops will be withdrawn by Christmas.
"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," Abbott told a large crowd of Australian and international soldiers.
Abbott said it the withdrawal was a "bitter-sweet" occasion, and that "Afghanistan remains a dangerous place despite all that has been done."
Australia is the largest provider of troops to the Afghanistan war outside NATO.