Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard Tuesday said Australia would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan earlier than planned. Ms Gillard made the announcement in a speech in Canberra, and ahead of a key Nato conference on Afghanistan in Chicago next month. She said troops would begin pulling out this year and most would be home by the end of 2013 - an election year in Australia. Most international troops are due to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Nato is in the process of handing over security control to local forces - some strategically important areas of the south and east have already been transferred to Afghan forces. There are currently about 130,000 Nato troops serving in Afghanistan from 50 contributing nations, the International Security and Assistance Force says. Ms Gillard's announcement, in a speech delivered to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, came two days after a spate of militant attacks in Kabul lasting for 18 hours left more than 50 people dead. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has linked Sunday's militant attacks to intelligence failures, especially on the part of Nato, but praised the performance of Afghan troops. Australia has 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, the largest force provided by any country outside Nato. The soldiers’ primary 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, though Gillard had hinted at an early exit in November when she said the troops’ mission could be finished before then. The U.S. plans to withdraw all of its combat troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.