Australia’s Prime Minister says her country will begin pulling its troops out of Afghanistan earlier than planned.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard said on Tuesday that most Australian soldiers in Afghanistan are expected to be home nearly a year ahead of schedule. Most will likely be back in Australia by the end of 2013.

Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan. That’s 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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