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Australian PM promises extra troops to Kabul

Prime Minister John Howard plans to send another 150 soldiers to Afghanistan to protect reconstruction efforts.

india Updated: Aug 09, 2006 16:20 IST

Australia will send another 150 soldiers to Afghanistan to protect reconstruction efforts, Prime Minister John Howard announced on Wednesday.

The troops are in addition to a 240-member task force promised in May to join a Netherlands-led provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan's southern Uruzgan province from next month, Howard told Parliament.

He said the task force would be bolstered with 30 soldiers to "enhance the security, robustness and flexibility of the task force."

An additional infantry company group of 120 soldiers equipped with armoured personnel carriers would also be sent to safeguard the task force, he said.

The task force will be sent for two years and the level of security would be reassessed after six months, Howard said.

"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 Afghanistan government and prevent reconstruction taking place," Howard told Parliament.

"Security beyond Kabul, particularly in the east and south, is the worst since the Taliban fell," he added.

Australia already has 300 troops in Afghanistan, including 190 special forces soldiers sent last September to bolster security for elections that month.

"Australia cannot and will not abandon Afghanistan," Howard said. "We need to remain committed to supporting this fledgling democracy."

Opposition Labor Party Leader Kim Beazley welcomed the military commitment and accused the government of withdrawing troops too soon after the fall of the Taliban almost five years ago.

More than 900 people have died in Afghanistan since May, most of them suspected militants killed by international or Afghan troops.

First Published: Aug 09, 2006 13:32 IST