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Australia Boosts Military Presence in Afghanistan

  • Phil Mercer

Australia will send an extra 450 troops to Afghanistan to address what the government in Canberra describes as a worsening security situation in the troubled country.

Australia has responded to diplomatic pressure from U.S. President Obama for America's allies to increase their military contribution to the war in Afghanistan.

The additional Australian forces will help train the Afghan army and provide security for a presidential election in August.

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd says it is clear that security in Afghanistan is deteriorating.

Australia's involvement in the campaign against Taliban insurgents is proving to be increasingly unpopular with voters following a string of combat deaths. Mr. Rudd, however, said Wednesday that winning the war is his country's best interests.

"We cannot ignore this cold, hard strategic fact - less security in Afghanistan means less security for Australians. Handing Afghanistan back to terrorist control will increase the threat to all Australians. This commitment that we have announced today is not a blank check but it focused on training the Afghans to manage their own security," he said.

Ten Australian soldiers have been killed in Afghanistan, four of them since last November.

Australia is the biggest contributor to the U.S.-led coalition outside of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Prime Minister Rudd has been calling for other NATO countries to do more to help defeat the Taliban. He noted Wednesday that Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain had all agreed to send more troops since President Obama ordered a troop surge earlier this year.

Australia's extra forces will boost its current contingent of about 1,100 Australian troops in Afghanistan.

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