The Australian

AUSTRALIA will remain in Afghanistan after its troops complete their training mission in 2014 and be engaged there "through this decade at least", Julia Gillard said today.

The Prime Minister, in a speech to launch federal parliament's debate on the deployment of troops to Afghanistan, also warned Australians to brace for more casualties and “hard days ahead”.

Ms Gillard said there would still be a need for Australia to play a supporting role after it finishes training the 4th Brigade of the Afghan National Army in Oruzgan province - a task expected to be completed in 2014.

“The international community will remain engaged in Afghanistan beyond 2014 and Australia will remain engaged,” she said.

“There will still be a need for Australians in a supporting role. There will still be a role for training and other defence co-operation.”

Ms Gillard said civilian-led aid and development would continue, which would see Australia likely to continue playing a role in the war-torn country.

She warned that the task of “entrenching a functioning democratic Afghan state could be the work of a generation of Afghan people”.

Ms Gillard said she now believed the revised strategy announced by US President Barack Obama and the surge of 30,000 US troops would enable a transition to prepare the Afghan government to take responsibility for its own security.

But she warned that the transition would “take some years”.

“We will be engaged through this decade at least.”

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