Paul Osborne, AAP
Malcolm Turnbull has completed his global security homework ahead of his first White House meeting, visiting Australian troops in Afghanistan a day after touring Iraq.
The prime minister’s weekend visits to Iraq and Afghanistan – both of which are being helped by the ADF to battle Islamic extremists – have given him a firsthand insight into developments as he prepares to meet with US President Barack Obama in Washington.
Mr Turnbull met on Sunday with Afghanistan president Dr Ashraf Ghani, and the country’s chief executive officer Dr Abdullah Abdullah who with Dr Ghani formed a national unity government in September 2014.
The Afghan president accepted an invitation to visit Australia this year.
Mr Turnbull spoke with a number of the 250 defence personnel involved in Afghanistan during his visit including military trainers and force protection officers.
The prime minister also received top-level briefings about the NATO-led train, advise and assist mission Resolute Support, involving ADF personnel, which replaced the previous International Security Assistance Force mission.
He told Australian troops at Qarga, the Afghan national army officer academy, that Afghanistan’s leadership enormously appreciated their work.
‘You are making a real difference to the evolution of Afghanistan to a point where it can stand on its own two feet and maintain its own security,’ Mr Turnbull said.
The work was not only important for Afghanistan’s future but in the global security effort.
‘We say that Afghanistan is a long way from Australia … but everything is very close and very connected,’ he said.
‘So enabling Afghanistan to be safer, to be more secure, to be able to defend itself with their own people is absolutely critical to the world’s security and indeed to ours.’
Analysts say 2015 was a bloody year for Afghanistan, with a resurgent Taliban killing or wounding an estimated 16,000 soldiers and policemen.
However, Afghan forces have managed to hold the country’s major urban centres.
The entrenched nature of the Taliban in militant communities has kept the Islamic State extremist group to a very limited presence in Afghanistan.
Mr Turnbull will spend two days in Washington, holding talks on security, financial reform and trade and delivering speeches to promote his innovation agenda.
He and Mr Obama are also expected to discuss maritime tensions in the South China Sea and East China Sea, as well as the US Marine rotation through northern Australia.