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More Australian Troops Heading to Afghanistan


Australia increasing its troop levels in Afghanistan. Two hundred forty soldiers and engineers will be deployed in July to work alongside Dutch forces to help with reconstruction efforts.

The new deployment will almost double Australia's military presence in Afghanistan.

Two hundred forty Australian combat soldiers, army tradesmen and engineers will head to the troubled country in July, to join the approximately 300 Australians already there.

The new contingent will work alongside a Dutch-led reconstruction team in Afghanistan's Oruzgan Province, helping to build roads and irrigation systems.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard admits the mission is dangerous, but says is necessary to help democracy take root in Afghanistan.

"There is danger. The situation in Afghanistan still remains quite fraught," he said. "This is a risky mission and it's a reminder to all Australians again of the risks that are undertaken by our men and women when they go overseas."

Mr. Howard has insisted that rebuilding Afghanistan and tackling extremism there are key parts in the global war on terror.

Australia has been a loyal supporter of Washington's efforts in the region.

In 2001 Canberra sent 1,500 troops to Afghanistan, including special forces, to join the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the former Taleban regime.

The action was a direct response to the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington in September 2001. The Taleban was accused of harboring al-Qaida, which used Afghanistan to train Islamic militants from all over the world.

Australia later withdrew its soldiers, only to send 190 elite commandos back to Afghanistan in 2005 to counter growing rebel attacks.

Taleban and al-Qaida insurgents are blamed for attacks that have resulted in the deaths of 30 foreign soldiers in Afghanistan this year, most of them American.

Members of the Afghan government have also been targeted by a wave of roadside and suicide bombings, as well as missile attacks and assassinations.

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