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Kabul Korrespondence

Fresh, factual, and funky view of Afghanistan and the surrounding Central Asian region

They were off to such a good start.....

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Just after the Labor Government won the election they promised to pull all troops out of Iraq in the next 2 years. I ask: Why one and not the other.........

Australia will play a leading role in drafting a new five-year plan for the war on terror in Afghanistan but has ruled out increasing troop numbers in the near future.

Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon said while Australia was committed for the long term in Afghanistan, other countries were not pulling their weight and needed to do more.

His comments came after he wrapped up talks in Edinburgh with his ministerial counterparts from the seven other countries with major troop commitments in strife-torn southern Afghanistan.

Mr Fitzgibbon said Australia would "play a leading role" in developing the plan, which will be presented at a NATO summit in April.

But he said until other NATO countries showed they were prepared to help the efforts of those countries with a military presence in southern Afghanistan, Australia would not be sending any more troops.

"I am concerned that a number of NATO countries are not taking up their share of the burden and on that basis we would have no intention of increasing our contribution."

There are currently about 40,000 allied troops in Afghanistan.

Australian troop numbers are expected to peak at 1,000 in the middle of next year.

Mr Fitzgibbon refused to set a timeline for how long Australia's troops would stay in Afghanistan, saying they would have to remain "for some time to come".

But, asked if any withdrawal could be made before 2010, he said "of course not", despite saying last weekend that there had been no change to the term of the deployment beyond August next year.

But he said while the planned withdrawal of Australian troops from Iraq would leave it better placed to increase numbers in Afghanistan, the armed services would still be "overstretched regardless of that withdrawal".

"So no one should get the impression that because we have the actual capacity of the overwatch battle group (in Iraq) that we suddenly have all this additional capacity to deal with additional contingencies in Afghanistan."

"I think the public generally weren't given a clear picture of the state of the situation in Afghanistan and on receiving the information available to us in government we are very concerned and we accept that the challenges ahead are going to be significant," he said.
posted by Travis, 2:08 pm


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