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Australia to hasten Afghan exit

Australia will begin pulling its troops out of Afghanistan earlier than planned, prime minister Julia Gillard has said.

She said most Australian soldiers in Afghanistan are expected to be home nearly a year ahead of schedule and most will probably be home by the end of 2013.

Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan. That is the largest force provided by any country outside Nato.

The soldiers' main objective has been training an Afghan National Army brigade to take responsibility for security in Uruzgan province.

Australia had originally planned to withdraw its soldiers by the end of 2014.

But Ms Gillard had hinted at an early exit in November when she said the troops' mission could be finished before then.

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From Belfast Telegraph