Sunday, October 25, 2009

Australia Seeks Quick Withdrawal from Afghanistan



By TALEK HARRIS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Australia on Oct. 21 said it wanted to bring its military involvement in Afghanistan to a quick end, despite U.S. and NATO calls for more troops to shore up the campaign against a resurgent Taliban.Defense Minister John Faulkner said Australia was studying how to complete the mission in the "shortest time-frame possible." Australia has about 1,550 troops in Afghanistan with no date set for their withdrawal."I've certainly asked the Australian Defence Force for any recommendations they have about ensuring we do complete that important role and responsibility both effectively, but in the shortest time-frame possible," he told ABC radio.

Faulkner admitted Australia's move would affect the push by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, for an Iraq-style troop "surge" against the increasingly powerful Taliban militia."I've been discussing these issues with the chief of the Defence Force, Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, and obviously it's a critically important matter for me," he said."I'm not going to talk specifically about the approaches we'll take but I do acknowledge that there will be impacts on the approach that NATO and ISAF partners will be taking as a result of General McChrystal's 60-day assessment."

McChrystal warned last month that the war could be lost within a year without extra resources to fight the Islamists, who were driven from power by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.President Barack Obama is currently considering boosting U.S. troops by 40,000 to about 100,000, in the face of growing public opposition in the United States.Concern over the campaign's legitimacy was heightened by U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai's fraud-tainted performance in August polls. Karzai will now fight a run-off vote with rival Abdullah Abdullah.

However, Faulkner said Australia was not about to start drawing down its troop numbers, while Prime Minister Kevin Rudd insisted the country would "stay the course"."We cannot afford for that country to lurch back into the circumstances that prevailed in 2001," Rudd told parliament. "We do not want that country to become a training ground for terrorists."

Australia, which provides the ninth-biggest contingent of foreign troops, has lost 11 soldiers in Afghanistan. Rudd said its commitment was "rock-solid" after the latest death in July but also admitted the war was "unpopular".Armed forces chief Angus Houston has expressed hope that international troops could hand over to Afghan forces in three to four years, although he warned against the dangers of an early withdrawal.

Defense analyst Clive Williams said Australia may be trying to head off any request for more troops rather than stir debate as Obama ponders the dramatic U.S. increase."We can't leave before the Americans do, therefore we're pretty much locked into an American timetable," said Williams, adjunct professor at Macquarie University's Centre for Policing Intelligence and Counter-Terrorism.

"If we started to draw down prematurely, they wouldn't appreciate that."Australia's previous government, under John Howard, first committed the troops to Afghanistan but opinion polls have shown public opinion is turning against the conflict.On Oct. 21, defense officials said an Afghan-bound soldier had died during a training exercise, while last week they admitted Australian troops had shot a uniformed Afghan policeman as he approached a checkpoint.About 100,000 international troops are currently based in Afghanistan, including a U.S. contingent which will hit 68,000 by year-end and another 9,500 from Britain.

1 comments:

ultimately only usa will remain in afghanistan.

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