Australia is sending more than 1,500 troops, including elite special forces, to join the U.S.-led campaign against terrorist targets in Afghanistan. Prime Minister John Howard says the force will be ready for action by mid-November, but analysts warn the deployment could overstretch Australia's military.
Australian Prime Minister John Howard says the country will increase its contribution to the international war against terrorism.
Australia is sending 1,500 troops, including Special Forces commandos, several military aircraft and four navy ships to support efforts against targets in Afghanistan.
Mr. Howard made the announcement Wednesday after a call from President Bush overnight. The commitment from Australia is much larger than the prime minister's initial announcement of support on October 4.
Mr. Howard says the risk of casualties is high and warns the campaign may be more dangerous than the Australian-led U.N. military operation in East Timor two years ago. "Our forces will be overseas fighting in our name within a very short period of time. They will go with our best wishes, our prayers for a safe return," Mr. Howard continues. "It will not be an easy operation. The potential danger is much greater than turned out to be the case in East Timor." Australian opposition leader Kim Beazley says it is important that the country stands alongside the United States and Britain in fighting terrorism.
Despite the unified political response to the deployment, some military experts are concerned that Canberra may be over-committing itself. They note there is potential for trouble in Indonesia, to Australia's north, and that the country has regional military responsibilities.
Australia has a relatively small military, and already has security commitments in East Timor, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands and Bougainville.
Prime Minister Howard says this newest deployment will not leave Australia defenseless. He says he would not hesitate to send additional troops to Afghanistan if the U.S. sought more help.