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Australia Sending More Troops to Afghanistan to Fight Terrorism


Australia's defense minister has announced Tuesday his government will send an additional 110 troops to Afghanistan as part of its commitment to fight terrorism.

This new contingent of Australian soldiers will join 190 elite special forces already serving in Afghanistan.

Defense Minister Robert Hill announced the new deployment Tuesday. In a written statement he said Canberra is committed to helping build a "stable and secure" Afghanistan and combating threats of terrorism.

Australia sent 1,500 troops to help the United States in 2001 oust Afghanistan's former Taleban regime after it harbored suspected al-Qaida terrorists. It again sent troops ahead of last year's landmark elections. But the country remains at risk from militants and is host to international security forces - led by the U.S.

Australia's new batch of 110 soldiers - and two Chinook transport helicopters - will be deployed by the end of February and stay until September.

Neil James from the Australian Defense Association, an independent research organization, says the troops will have an important part to play in Afghanistan.

"The prospect of the Taleban coming back to power is very limited but they still have a capability to cause considerable problems to the new democratic Afghan government," said James. "What encourages us is there's bipartisan political support for this deployment and we would hope it stays that way. I don't think they'll be there that long but it may be one or two years."

The opposition Labor Party, which opposes Australia's military involvement in Iraq, says it supports this additional deployment to Afghanistan as relevant to Australia's regional security interests.

Australia is also considering sending a reconstruction team to the troubled country this year but its exact role and composition are yet to be finalized.

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