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PM 'serious' on Afghan troop mission
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Author:  Guest [ Thu Jul 07, 2005 4:12 pm ]
Post subject:  PM 'serious' on Afghan troop mission

PM 'serious' on Afghan troop mission
July 07, 2005
From: AAP
PRIME Minister John Howard was seriously considering a request to send more troops to Afghanistan, with a decision likely as early as next week, he said today.

Australia is under increasing pressure to extend its troop deployment to the country after a renewed plea this week by Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah.
Dr Abdullah called for help from Australia to stem escalating violence, with the shooting down of a US helicopter by Taliban forces last week highlighting fresh security concerns in his country.

Afghanistan's ambassador Mahmoud Saikal asked Canberra last week to commit to sending more troops.

Mr Saikal said great progress had been made in Afghanistan since 2002 and a further deployment of troops would provide stability as the country prepares for elections in September.

Mr Howard said the request would be considered by Cabinet next week.

"There's been a standing request from the government of Afghanistan over quite a period of time to a lot of countries including Australia to send troops," he told Southern Cross Broadcasting.

"Now we are going to look at it.

"I don't want to pre-empt what cabinet might decide.

"But we are going to look at it and if we do take a decision it will be announced next week."

Mr Howard said he had discussed the idea with Foreign Minister Alexander Downer and Defence Minister Robert Hill as well as the military.

He said while he had his own personal view on an increased troop commitment, he would wait to talk with his cabinet colleagues.

Opposition Leader Kim Beazley has warned the Government not to overdo a troop commitment in Afghanistan, suggesting Labor's support for a renewed deployment was conditional on winding back Australia's forces in Iraq.

Mr Howard made it clear that any decision on Afghanistan would not affect Australia's commitment in Iraq.

"The two issues are quite separate and if we were to decide on Afghanistan it would be taken in isolation to our commitment to Iraq, and that commitment will remain until the job is finished," he said.

Special Air Service Regiment troops served in Afghanistan in 2002 in the fight against remnants of the Taliban regime and the al-Qaeda terror organisation, but Australian involvement in Afghanistan now amounts to just one engineer engaged in mine clearance.

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