News / Asia

Australian Military Chief Says Steady Progress Made in Afghanistan

An Australian soldier takes position during a NATO/ISAF joint task force patrol in Mirwais in the southern province of Uruzgan in Afghanistan (File)
An Australian soldier takes position during a NATO/ISAF joint task force patrol in Mirwais in the southern province of Uruzgan in Afghanistan (File)

Australian defense officials say more amored vehicles will soon be deployed to Afghanistan.

After two days of parliamentary testimony Tuesday, Defense Minister John Faulkner said that the government will spend $255 million on new armored vehicles to protect troops fighting a resurgent Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

Faulkner also said indicated his government will not send more troops to country, despite recent success against Taliban insurgents and signs that life is improving for Afghans.

Australian troops have been part of the multi-national force Afghanistan since late 2001. About 1,500 soldiers are there now to help in the fight militants, train local forces and assist civilian reconstruction efforts.

The country's top military officer, Air Chief Marshar Angus Houston, said during the hearing that Australian Special Forces have killed insurgents responsible for planting roadside bombs, which have inflicted terrible losses on coalition troops and civilians.  Houston added that while Afghanistan remains an extremely dangerous country, positive steps have been made, including vital military successes and in important social areas.

"Australian Special Forces and their partners, the provincial police reserve, have been active in targeting Taliban insurgent networks. Across Uruzgan in the last three years the number of schools has more than doubled. There are approximately 43,000 children registered in school, including 4,100 girls," said Houston.

Australia's military leaders think that better facilities, such as schools and electricity, might make Afghans less likely to side with the Taliban, which governed the country before the U.S.-led invasion nine years ago.

Houston cited a recent opinion poll he said suggests that more than half of the Afghan population thinks their battered nation is heading in the right direction.

However, he and Faulkner said that Australia will not send more troops to replace the Dutch force that will leave Uruzgan province in August and return to the Netherlands. To do so, they said, would undermine security at home, and the country's ability to respond to natural disasters and other problems in the Pacific. Instead, Canberra says NATO must assume extra responsibilities when the Dutch depart.

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