Tuesday, February 21, 2006
The Australian government has confirmed it will send an extra 200 troops to Afghanistan as part of a security and reconstruction team. Prime Minister John Howard says troops will leave from late July and will spend about two years in Afghanistan separate from the Special Forces and commandos already serving there. In a press conference in Canberra today, Mr Howard said the deployment was “further evidence of the government’s ongoing commitment to assist the people of Afghanistan in consolidating their embrace of democracy and resisting any attempt on the part of the Taliban to come back.”
The Australian Greens oppose the deployment of new troops. In a press release, Senator Bob Brown voiced his opinion on the matter, and said the following about Australia’s deployment: “The announcement that Australia will be sending 200 more troops to Afghanistan comes hard on the heels of the Bush administration announcing the withdrawal of 3000 troops from the same theatre,” he said. “Without the US withdrawal there would be no Australian deployment. This is John Howard once again using the ADF to meet the Bush administration’s political shortcomings. Our troops should be kept at home.”
“The ADF contribution will be a mixed security and reconstruction taskforce of approximately 200 personnel and will be deployed over a period of two years,” Howard told reporters. The Australian Defence Force (ADF) troops will be deployed from late July and work alongside Dutch soldiers as part of a NATO force. The extra 200 troops will bring the number of ADF personnel to more than 500.
Australia sent 1,550 troops to Afghanistan in 2001, including special forces, to join the U.S.-led strikes against the Taliban regime. Australia’s only fatality in Afghanistan came in February 2002 when a soldier was killed after his vehicle hit a land mine. Violence has intensified in Afghanistan in recent months, particularly in the south and east, with a wave of raids, roadside and suicide bombings killing dozens of people.