Afghanistan had a surprise visitor in Prime Minister Julia Gillard over the weekend and she was there, media reports said, to boost the morale of Diggers serving in the 11-year Afghan Mission.
Ms Gillard's brief stay in the war-torn country, according to Agence France Presse (AFP), allowed her to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Sunday and she used the occasion to allay fears of Australians over "tragic and disturbing incidents," of green-on-blue attacks, in which seven Aussie troops have been killed.
In late August alone, three Diggers were gunned down by an Afghan army officer while off-duty in an Australian forward base in Uruzgan, where the 1550-strong Australian contingent of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is mostly operating.
The insider attacks, Ms Gillard said, were being perpetrated "to corrode morale (of Coalition troops) and everything needs to be done on the Afghan side," to halt these disturbing incidences, which NATO officials said already killed scores of foreign soldiers deployed in Afghanistan, majority of them U.S. service members.
"I spoke to President Karzai about our concern about insider attacks and sought an assurance from him that everything that can be done is being done," the prime minister was quoted by AFP as saying during her Sunday stopover to Afghanistan.
"He spoke to me about the steps being taken by Afghan forces to deal with insider attacks. I also raised that issue with the Governor of Uruzgan province where our troops were," she added.
The quick stop in Afghanistan, which Ms Gillard has inserted to her official visit to India this week, also gave the Australian leader a chance for a brief chat with U.S. Marine Gen John Allen, the top commander of ISAF troops in the country, the Australian Associated Press (AAP) said on Monday.
She also spent some time with Diggers stationed in Tarin Kowt, also in Uruzgan and was treated to a barbecue party by the Australian troops.
The prime minister made known to the soldiers that Australia is fully appreciative of their sacrifices for the mission Afghanistan, which already claimed the lives of 38 Diggers.
"One reason I'm here today is just to say a big thank you to you on behalf of the Australian nation for everything you do," Ms Gillard was reported by AAP as saying.
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