MORE AUSTRALIAN TROOPS HEAD FOR AFGHANISTAN
By James Grubel Wed Aug 9, 6:11 AM ET
CANBERRA (Reuters) - Australia
will send an extra 150 troops to Afghanistan
due to the deteriorating security situation, Prime Minister John Howard said on Wednesday, briefly boosting Canberra's
commitment to Afghanistan to more than
"Security beyond Kabul, particularly in the east and south, is the worst since the Taliban
fell -- suicide bombings have increased," Howard told parliament.
Australia was one of the first countries to commit forces in late 2001
to the U.S.-led war which ousted the Taliban and began fighting Osama
bin Laden's al Qaeda, blamed for the September 11, 2001, airliner attacks on the United States.
"We must stick with our
allies and stand up for our values," said Defense Minister Brendan Nelson, outlining the new Australian Defense Force (ADF)
"A failure to do so will
inevitably mean leaving the next generation hostage to global forces they will never control."
The bulk of the extra troops
will be being sent to protect Australian military engineers, who will join a Netherlands-led reconstruction team in the central
province of Uruzgan.
"The level of violence has
increased in Afghanistan in recent months as the Taliban and other terrorist groups, including al Qaeda, seek to chip away
at the credibility of the Afghan government and prevent reconstruction taking place," said Howard.
Almost 80 foreign soldiers,
hundreds of militants and Afghan forces as well as civilians and aid workers have been killed in the worsening violence this
No Australian troops have
been killed in enemy fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq,
but Howard warned "the possibility of ADF casualties cannot be discounted."
In July, six Australian
special forces troops were wounded in fighting in southern Afghanistan.
Australia's 200 special forces troops are due to return home next month,
leaving about 400 soldiers in Afghanistan.
Australia's contribution to the reconstruction team in Uruzgan would be for two years, said Howard, as rebuilding
the war-ravaged nation will take many years.
But Nelson later suggested
Australian troops could remain in Afghanistan
"We are going to have to
be there for some time to make this work," Nelson told Australian Broadcasting Corp. television.
Howard said Afghanistan's social indicators "remain sobering," with a
life expectancy of 46 one of world's lowest and one in five children dying before reaching the age of five.
"The stability of Afghanistan has wider implications for global security and it is for this reason that the Australian
government is committed to ensuring Afghanistan's
achieves long term peace," he said.
A close ally of the United States, Australia has about 4,200
troops deployed overseas, including about 1,400 in and around Iraq and
more than 2,200 in neighboring East Timor.
Australia's centre-left Labor opposition supported the extra deployment
but criticized Howard's government for drawing down troop numbers in Afghanistan
"John Howard should not
have cut and run from Afghanistan at that
time. It was the wrong decision," Labor leader Kim Beazley told parliament.