SYDNEY - The future of Australia's aid to Afghanistan will be mapped out in an agreement Prime Minister Julia Gillard and her Afghan counterpart will sign on the sidelines of a major NATO summit in the United States.
The agreement will focus on aid and development but also touch on trade, investment and cultural ties.
Advertisement: Story continues below ''Afghanistan is one of the poorest nations on earth, so aid and development matters to lift people out of poverty,'' Ms Gillard told reporters. ''But of course it also matters in the security context, which is that it is easy for the Taliban and for insurgents to make a pitch to local people if local people are not seeing any progress.''
Ms Gillard will have one-on-one talks with NATO leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and new French President Francois Hollande.
Mr Hollande this week confirmed plans to withdraw France's combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, well ahead of the previously agreed time.
''President Hollande has given the French people a commitment about what he will do with combat troops,'' Ms Gillard said.
''But there are more ways of supporting the work in Afghanistan and I will be speaking to him about that.'' Ms Gillard says she will also catch up with US President Barack Obama, although they will not have a formal bilateral meeting.
The NATO and International Security Assistance Force leaders are gathering in Chicago to review the transition strategy that is seeing coalition forces gradually handing over security control to local Afghan forces.
They will also be grappling with what will happen once the withdrawal is complete, including who will pay the estimated $4.1 billion annual price tag to sustain the Afghan National Security Forces.
Ms Gillard has already announced Australia will contribute $100 million a year between 2015 and 2018 to the fund.
Ms Gillard's arrival in Chicago was delayed by several hours because the VIP plane she originally intended to use broke down in Townsville, meaning she had to wait for a replacement.
Her trip means she will be out of Australia when federal MP Craig Thomson makes a long-awaited statement to Parliament today about allegations that he misused Health Services Union funds. (Agencies)