Australia commits more troops to Afghanistan

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Thursday, July 14, 2005

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has announced that 150 SAS personnel will be serving in Afghanistan within two months, and a further 200 troops will follow them by early next year. According to Mr Howard the decision is the result of a request from the United States and others.

Opposition leader Kim Beazley has said that Labor supported the plan. Mr Beazley has been critical of the government in recent weeks because of its military focus on Iraq rather than Afghanistan, which he says is the source of the terrorist threat.

Beazley offered that it has been "obvious for some time that the job was only partially completed when the commitment was made earlier."

The commitment comes amid a resurgence of the Taliban and an increase in insurgency activities in Afghanistan.

"The progress that has been made in the establishment of a legitimate government in Afghanistan has come under increasing attack and pressure from the Taliban - and some elements of al-Qaeda," Mr Howard said.

The additional troop commitment has been welcomed by the Afghani government. Lutfullah Mashal, Afghanistan's Interior Ministry spokesman, said that assistance with security or reconstruction and development is always welcome, however he expressed disappointment that the deployment would only be for 12 months. Mr Howard has said that he does not like to make open ended commitments, and also stated that extra security would be needed for the APEC summit in 2007.

"At the time of the APEC meeting and in the months leading up to it, the need in this country is for a heightened elite security capacity," he said.